Picture this: a beautiful summer afternoon, high of 85, skirts and sundresses all around. The sun sits high overhead and everything is in technicolor, vibrant shades of red, green and blue. Perhaps even more colorful are the spirits of your coworkers, frolicking about the beer garden luncheon management graciously arranged. Glasses clink, wine is spilled. The sticky-sweet aroma of beer fills the air as laughter rings in every which direction. Everyone is having a merry time — except you, for one of two reasons:
A.) You’re under 21 and unsure if it’s appropriate to participate.
B.) You’re over 21, but unsure how much is advisable to drink as a new hire.
If You Selected Choice A
Your coworkers aren’t dense. They realize you’re fresh out of college and spent more Two-for-Tuesdays, Thirsty Thursdays and Friday nights at frat parties, basement shows and dive bars than you care you admit. More importantly, they get you were drinking, copiously, under age. But while underage drinking is a college rite of passage, it’s also a liability in the working world. Not only does binging tarnish your up-and-coming reputation, but it can get your company in serious trouble. I get it — drinking with coworkers signifies acceptance in the workplace: new hires are taken to Happy Hour, bridal showers boast champagne toasts, clients are wined and dined. After putting your everything into office hours, it’s hard to keep your distance at related celebrations. Such scenarios seem to brand you with a scarlet “C” for “child,” but if you’re eager to seem mature beyond your years, you’ll put the glass down. Though people may offer and the temptation’s ever present, the impression you’ll make by pressing your lips together is powerful. Your coworkers will recognize your sense of self control and applaud you for it down the line.
What to do instead: Unfortunately when people are drinking, alcohol is an often an unavoidable part of the conversation. Feel free to address the elephant in the room and ask your coworkers what they’re sipping and for future recommendations — adults take pride in their favorite wines and craft beers and enjoy rehashing how they stumbled upon them. Just because you’re can’t consume now doesn’t mean you can’t broaden your understanding for upcoming ventures. Once you’re 21, that is.
After everyone jokes around about your age and how old you were when they were in college, take advantage of being outside the office and pursue conversation beyond business and booze. Get to know your team on a deeper level. Ask them about their early careers, draw out their favorite reads. Bonding with coworkers outside the office brings you closer together in the boardroom, fostering stronger interpersonal relationships.
If You Selected Choice B
Growing up, I’m sure you’ve been chided to “act your age” dozens of times. Well this time, don’t. As a young twenty-something, society expects you to guzzle booze like the college-age kid that you are; don’t prove them right.
Contrary to what sitcoms portray, it is possible to enjoy an office party without drinking your weight in tequila. While there’s nothing wrong with a celebratory shot, keep things classy. Nurse your drink throughout the night and make sure you’re not outpacing others. If college taught you anything, it’s that as much as everyone enjoys the wisecracker by night, they enjoy making jokes at his expense the morning after. Instead of going drink for drink your first night out, take a backseat and watch how others engage. If everyone else is at at 5, restrict yourself to a 3.
Still not convinced? Consider this: with a pay check in tow, you no longer have to chug each beer like it’s your last. In fact, a whole new world alcoholic beverages now opens up before you, so take the time to enjoy every sip.