Getting noticed at the office -- and even getting promoted -- often starts outside the workplace. Employees are realizing they can advance their careers by engaging in after-work activities, such as team trivia nights, grabbing a beer with colleagues or playing sports with their co-workers.
Corporate culture expert Joshua M. Evans says these types of activities promote camaraderie, grow interpersonal skills and build trust.
"Many people in leadership roles will lower their guard during team building activities," Evans says. "This is a great time to informally discuss your aspirations and to find out what's going on behind the scenes at your organization."
Dayne Shuda knows the value of mingling outside the office. In his first job out of college, he volunteered to golf in a charity scramble for his new company. He met seven co-workers during the event.
"We spent all day and evening together," says Shuda, who now owns Ghost Blog Writers. "It helped them know that I existed, and that allowed them to learn more about me and get to know me and led to project opportunities."
Team activities can help employees and employers connect in less formal settings and on a personal level.
"Seize any and all opportunities for networking, especially social and athletic activities," says Alexander Lowry, a professor of finance at Gordon College and also the director for the school's financial analysis master's program. "You'll be building connections and making friends, often without even realizing it."
Lowry says these relationships will become key in an employee's future, especially because people often hire like-minded individuals.
During activities away from the office, stay focused on developing personal connections.
"Use after-work activities to demonstrate that you're friendly, adaptable and easy to work with so managers will be more likely to keep you in mind when a role with more responsibility becomes available," says Ryne Higgins, senior manager of e-commerce for Peacock Alley, a luxury bedding company.
Out-of-the-office activities are a great opportunity to expand your professional network.
"Use each outing as an opportunity to talk to someone you otherwise wouldn't have spoken to, and if you notice a few people don't come or aren't included, personally invite them," says Tara Carter, a corporate recruiter with Williams Adley, an accounting and management consulting firm. She notes that it's good business to make everyone feel included.
"You should take a legitimate interest in people," says Jason Patel, founder of college prep company Transizion, which offers students career development assistance.
Patel encourages workers to have a mental list of potential questions -- about family members, successes, failures, passions and more -- to ask their peers and supervisors.
"These are all things that get people to open up," Patel says. "People want to be understood. It's a very human thing."
Though there's no need to rehearse the questions, be sincere and don't be fake. Building authentic relationships takes time and trust.
Enjoy the moments, and don't talk specifically about work unless it comes up organically.
*Do's and Don'ts
--Be professional while being yourself, advises Shuda. But don't drink too much or tell inappropriate jokes.
--Talk about more than work. Safe topics for conversation include your hobbies, kids and goals.
--Don't be overly competitive. Evans says that being very competitive can be seen as a threat.
--Avoid such unprofessional behaviors as swearing, yelling and cheating, which Evans says can be seen as red flags to your integrity in the workplace.
--Don't open up about your team members and your issues with them, says Carter, explaining, "If you don't want the whole office to know, it shouldn't be said."
Photo courtesy of TrivWorks (https://www.TrivWorks.com).