I get carded every time I go to happy hour with my work team. Probably because I order drinks that look and taste like candy and because I’m baby-faced. It hurts my pride a little bit– okay, a lot– to be carded in front of my coworkers when clearly I’m out on a professional, adult field trip. Bartenders have a sneaky way of making me feel like a little girl dressed up in her mom’s business clothes.
But I’m not a little girl; I’m a grown-ass woman, and given the demographics here, you probably are, too. We’re men and women now. Gone are the days of taking poorly made Jell-O shots at frat parties.
The first time I ordered a drink with my coworkers, I was overjoyed that it came in a nice glass instead of a plastic cup, but a little sad that I didn’t get to throw the empty cup on the ground when I was done.
The fact is: If you want to be treated like an adult, you have to act like one.
Working and partying in a group of all ages is a totally different experience than doing the same with peers. But no matter what kind of work environment you’re a part of, there are a few rules we can all follow to successfully and professionally drink with coworkers as interns.
Drinking ≠ getting drunk
A frequent text my friends will get from me is something like “LET’S GO GET TURNT DIS WEEKEND.” But at happy hour with coworkers, it’s a different story.
Repeat after me: Thou shalt not get wasted. It’s okay to let a little loose and maybe to even feel a bit tipsy, but there is no reason for you to be stumbling around and slurring your words in front of your boss or your fellow interns. And if you feel yourself reaching that point, ask the bartender for water or get a safe ride home. Yes, it’s a party setting, but that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s okay to completely let loose. Don’t let yourself get drunk. Please, just don’t.
They’re your coworkers–not necessarily your friends
It might be safe to complain about schoolwork and the weather or the bad date you went on last weekend with other interns your age, but more likely than not, your adult coworkers do not want to hear that. Leave that stuff at home, in your diary, locked away.
Bars aren’t exactly professional settings, but that doesn’t mean your conversation can’t be professional. Just because it’s a casual environment and there is alcohol involved doesn’t mean you can say something that you wouldn’t say by the water tank.
Keep in mind that you’re going to see them the next work day
This rule goes hand-in-hand with number 2. Remember that whatever you may do in your drunken state can live on in other people’s memories.
This rule brings to mind that SpongeBob episode “The Secret Box,” in which said box holds an embarrassing photo of SpongeBob at a Christmas party. This will happen to you when you get too lit at your company’s get-together. Don’t give your drunk, embarrassing moments that kind of immortality.
Talk to people who you don’t normally get to talk to
My boss and I are tight, and I have the tendency sometimes to attach myself to her when we’re around people I don’t know, like a kid hiding behind their mom’s legs from strangers. But you gotta be brave! Mingle with interns from different departments, and be bold enough to talk to older coworkers about something besides work. It’s like being on a first date—it’s okay to be nervous, buy try getting to know the person and discover common interests.
Respect your coworkers and they will respect you
The two things I always wish for whenever I start a new job or internship is 1) that I learn many new things and 2) that I am respected by my coworkers. Your coworkers will respect you not only if you act respectfully to them but also if you don’t make a drunken fool out of yourself. This includes respecting the hierarchy of your workplace. For example: If you wouldn’t normally say an adult joke to your CEO, maybe don’t experiment with that at happy hour. Hierarchy doesn’t disappear when you leave the office.
Order whatever you want
If my whole office went out to a bar and ordered on the same tab, the order would include a nice variety of “grown-up” drinks (craft beers, dark liquors, classic cocktails) and one neon-colored slushie drink, made with three kinds of alcohol, named something as equally ridiculous as Sex on the Beach, from the house menu, just for me. And I would have no shame about it. Partying with your coworkers doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself. And if people judge you for your drink order, then they’re just plain rude, and you don’t have to talk to them. That, or they wish that they were young and cool like you!
Sometimes being young can give us the freedom to do silly young person things, like wearing sparkly skirts to work and taking selfies at your desk (both things that I am guilty of). I wouldn’t feel patronized if someone said, “Aww, she looks cute in her pink shoes today,” but I would be absolutely humiliated if someone said, “Wow, she always drinks like she’s at a college party.” So, I don’t give them the opportunity to say anything like that by drinking responsibly.
Have fun and party with your coworkers—be yourself, responsible, and respectful.