"How you shouldn’t skip after-work drinks" - #DiscoverMedia
October 7, 2014
It’s time to clock off, you’ve got your coat and you’re ready to go, and then across the office (or studio or set) someone shouts out “anyone fancy a drink?”. It’s one of those grey areas of social interaction that you try and avoid, being sociable around co-workers? ‘Of course not!’ your mind may cry, but wait a second…
You may actually be missing out.
I’m not going to hark on here about how you really should go out and paint the walls every night after work, or even bother to touch an alcoholic beverage at all to join in with the party (as lets face it, you might not even drink! Or may not want to that day), instead I’m going to discuss the benefits of how you really shouldn’t skip that ‘socializing’ stage after work, during lunch and on breaks, where work continues outside the office.
The first thing to consider, is that this isn't really a 'drinks' outing at all. Ignore the whole drinks or food aspect of the outing with your co-workers, and instead start thinking of it as a casual meeting outside of work time. It may be an occasion where people have a drink, or sit down with a coffee and 'chat' about their life outside of work, but there crop up occasions which you really shouldn't miss, such as discussing that important project coming up next week or how you're going to progress on the shoot tomorrow.
I used to work for an editing company for three months, and once a week we would go for 'Drinks' (usually on a Wednesday night) after work for an hour or two; and sit outside whilst discussing what we've all been working on that day, how the project was coming along and share ideas about how to progress cutting in the future and potential ways for the narrative to unfold in different projects. The Series Producer, AP and AD would be with us, and it would be treated exactly like an informal work meeting, sometimes we would buy the drinks and sometimes they would (never go more than 3 or 4 drinks after work with co-workers and your boss if you need to be in the next day...), and other aspects of planning that couldn't or wasn't done in the office was instead undertaken outside the workplace. We would each go over the projects we had edited that day, discuss the flow of the clips and how we saw the rest of it being edited tomorrow, and then would bandy around ideas between one another about how it could be tweaked or improved to sit in with the other scenes and allow the overall episode to flow better. It would also allow the SP and AP to give us more information about upcoming scenes we had to cut, and how the project was progressing in getting picked up by a broadcaster, so we also got access to extra information and help in these scenarios we might not have gathered inside the office (as we were all too busy staring at screens with headphones plugged in...).
Are you being paid for these hours? Probably not, but the benefit of being at this social gathering outside the work place means everyone is more relaxed and 'work discussions' are treated a lot more casually and flow, ideas being generated by all involved and perhaps that problem you've been stuck on for the past three weeks might get solved by Jim who sits 3 desks over. Keep it relaxed and professional, don't pack it away in front of strangers (unless you've got that comfortable long-term relationship with your co-workers) as you really don't want that secret weekend party animal reputation surfacing in gossip around the kitchen kettle tomorrow lunch hour. Get to know the people you are working with, learn about them and their interests, try and strengthen your ties together and hopefully that will improve in-work relationships.
The other aspect to consider, is informal drinks that aren't related to the office. Plenty of times at University we would skip to the pub between lectures and sit discussing work with a drink, or we would host a student media meeting in the pub to create an informal atmosphere that would hopefully provoke more people to engage in planning and discussion. You might be out on an afternoon shoot, so sit around at lunchtime sharing a drink (though if its in work time then you probably shouldn't....) whilst discussing the setup and running order for the afternoon, the progression of the project and other aspects of work.
'Drinks' doesn't mean drinks. You may be meeting for an informal chat with the manager about your previous work, and how you can improve upon that for the next week. It might even be a proper 'informal chat' , which is actually codewords for a job interview, so you need to consider the benefits of the meeting against the context of the situation you are in. There are tons of scenarios where you could find yourself 'sharing a drink' with someone you are currently working with (paid and unpaid projects); so don't shirk off the opportunity to get in on extra information for next week's work, or miss another job opportunity only brought up over the pub table, or get the low-down on the running order for tomorrow morning's project, just because you 'dont fancy a pint' or you may not drink at all.
After both the Production Talent Pool training days, and the Assessment Day at White City 3 months prior, I went out for an informal chat and daytime drink with the other BBC potentials there. Not only did I get to know other people who worked for indy companies, ran their own radio channels and worked on film sets; but I also made valuable friends and contacts for the future who i'll both be able to help and they can in return. After the PTP training day in White City, a few of us sat around for hours talking about each other's work, skills and aspirations, and we talk regularly now on Twitter and Facebook about work, and I even meet up for chats whenever im around London. Sometimes they've helped me out with job applications, information searching or even having a place to kip for the night, so it goes to show that stopping for that 'casual drink' is more than worth the effort; drink slow, listen plenty and talk fast. Working in TV and Film is a friendly business, you need to get your face around and get to make friends as you'll be competing against those friends for jobs in the future, so your best bet is to help each other as much as you can to improve one another's chances. You may not get that job, but Jamie might know another placement coming up in a few weeks he can let you know to apply for. Below is a photo of Patryk; a fellow jouralist I met at an Italian film festival back in April, who also writes for one of the biggest Western film review websites. We went out for a chat and dinner, and since then have kept in regular contact. That kind of networking isn't hard, it just takes confidenc and a leap to help further yourself.
See it as a networking opportunity, a chance to further your own good reputation around the office and also to make contacts deeper with co-workers, or others you may not have approached in the office. It's an information gathering session, to help improve your own skills and work tomorrow that you might now have known about. Ensure you have a way of leaving, if the drinks pick up after an hour or two and conversation stalls, then that's your cue to leave. Stay for the business, show you're a great sociable guy that everyone should be friends with, then head home for the day to process everything you've learnt ready for tomorrow.
Don't let the stigma of drinking around co-workers put you off from meeting up with them in social informal situations, it might be beneficial to your job in the long-run and you could be missing out on important information.