For an entrepreneurial chick like me whose success is intricately tied to my ability to network, the weekday hours of 4-7 p.m. have the potential to be more magical than anything Hermione Granger could conjure up at Hogwarts. It turns out that happy hour appeals to busy bosses, new contacts, stressed colleagues and potential persons of interest (like new job leads!) alike, for three reasons: It gets them out of the office, there’s booze and it’s on sale. If you’re looking for new ways to move your career forward, I totally recommend incorporating the “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” mentality into your professional growth strategy.
Early in my career I discovered that just mentioning those two spellbinding words – happy hour – can usually turn a tentative meeting into a confirmed calendar appointment with even the hardest to pin down movers and shakers. There was the time after I quit a job I hated (I gave my resignation on a Monday and left that same day) and I had trouble finding a new role. I invited a seasoned recruiter I met at a networking event to happy hour and she helped land me my next role two weeks later.
Then there was the time when I first started managing – a team of people years older than me, no less – and I felt like I was in over my head. I asked my always-tied-up boss out to drinks and over the course of three rounds of half-priced Chardonnays and sliders, she gave me some stellar advice about how to be a supportive leader and whip my department into shape. I won’t lie: The phrase, “There’s a reason we gave the role to you and not to them” was definitely a confidence booster. But hearing, “People will move mountains if they know you have their back” was an absolute game-changer for me.
Happy hour has proven time and again to be a great environment for me to get to know and build relationships with key professionals and take my career to the next level. I’ve landed new jobs, hard-to-secure interviews, writing gigs and TV contributing opportunities all thanks to $8 happy- hour cocktail specials and being sincere in wanting to get to know people outside of the office.
Socializing over a beer, glass of wine or gin and tonic is already an acceptable part of our culture, so you don’t need to feel awkward inviting a professional connection out to happy hour. The fact that you’re connecting at a bar or restaurant makes the meeting feel less formal and more relaxed.
Here are some suggestions for turning happy hour into a career-building power hour as I did:
- Try to make your invite for 4 or 5 p.m. (right when your local happy hour starts). If you arrive later the bar may be too rowdy and you won’t be able to hear each other.
- Pick a happy hour spot that’s convenient for your connection, but is not the go-to spot for her or your co-workers. You want to be able to openly chat without fear of someone you know overhearing.
- Positive, engaging conversation is key. Spend the time learning more about them and being genuine. No one likes people who only talk about themselves or complain about everything.
- Limit yourself to two drinks max over the course of the evening, even if your connection is having more. You know why!
- Lastly, pick up the check. Happy hours are even happier when they are free. Most likely, your boss and/or senior professionals won’t let you pay, but you should always offer. No one wants to spend time with someone who is a mooch.