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I am a graduate student and recently my school held a networking event for the students to meet with companies and expand their professional network. I am studying finance and will be looking for work in the financial services industry, where professionalism is held with high regard. At this event, alcohol (beer + wine) plus light refreshments were available as a method to lighten / loosen the atmosphere and the students. Many of my fellow peers and even some employers were drinking but due to reasons of professionalism, I choose to abstain.

My question is would employers have any negative reactions from me not drinking as a sign of not fitting the environment or would they be impressed by the professionalism shown by abstaining?

Although this was an informal event right before the holidays, I still want to remain professional to the highest degree.

Thanks for any feedback.

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  • I don't understand the question... your tenses are all screwy. You say the even was "held" in the past, ok. Then you say "I still want to remain professional to the highest degree." which implies there is a future event? Why is the tense of this statement in the future? – bharal Dec 5 '14 at 11:51
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    I doubt anyone would notice but if anyone in the financial services industry learnt that your reason for abstaining was to "demonstrate your professionalism" it would be a huge negative against you. Do they think they provided the drinks as a trap? – TheMathemagician Dec 5 '14 at 13:01
  • @TheMathemagician I smiled at this too. I sometimes work in my countries Financial centre and, boy, if there's one group of people who love to drink..! – Dan Dec 5 '14 at 13:02
  • Would they have seen you with no drink in hand (which could just mean you weren't thirsty at the moment), or are you asking about visibly drinking, say, a can of Coke instead of the beer? – Monica Cellio Dec 5 '14 at 16:05
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would employers have any negative reactions from me not drinking as a sign of not fitting the environment or would they be impressed by the professionalism shown by abstaining?

Neither.

Assuming you weren't drinking to excess or loudly criticizing others for drinking, it's extremely unlikely that potential employers would notice or care either way.

It you are very concerned, hold a glass of ice water.

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Most likely it wouldn't be noticed at all so it is neither a positive or a negative. If you drank so much and caused a scene then you would be seen in a negative light though avoiding this doesn't automatically count as positive points as behaving oneself is generally presumed to be done all the time.

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  • I have edited my question in response to your answer. I am studying business and am looking for work in financial services. – Anthony Dec 5 '14 at 6:47
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Your question is unclear - or, rather, you don't seem to have a question to answer but:

You should accept that there's nothing inherently unprofessional with drinking while on the clock - in most cultures, eating and drinking is a key part of socialising and socialising is a key part of building relationships and therefore business. Alcohol is absolutely part of that and, as you go through your career, you should expect to see professional people drinking.

Let me be clear - I'm in no way saying it's ALWAYS acceptable to drink and I've certainly worked places where nobody would dream of a lunch time pint. And, of course, there's a judgement to be called for - if you're not the one in a position of 'power' (I.e., you're the interviewee, or the salesman rather than the interviewer or the customer) then I'd not recommend drinking if the other person doesn't.

Likewise, it's rare that getting drunk is acceptable - but, then again, I've been on serious nights out with work and I don't feel I ever acted 'unprofessionally' - even if we did get a little silly. It's all about context.

However, there's also nothing wrong with not drinking alcoholic drinks, either. It's (sadly) natural for people to add a little bit of peer pressure and, if they do, feel free to explain that you don't drink at work or whatever.

I'm a contractor and occasionally get invited for Friday Lunchtime drinks with people I'm working with - I always go to be sociable, but I never drink because I know it'll affect my productivity in the afternoon. That may not matter for them, but it does to me as a contractor - I just smile and say "Oh, man - if I had a pint now I'd be asleep this afternoon".

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When people go too far out of their way to be: professional, smart or cool, people notice and frown upon it. It's seen as phony. If you can have one or two drinks and not make a fool out of yourself, what's the problem? Nobody from across the room is going to be able to tell if you put any rum in your Coke.

Being professional comes from knowing the rules and you do that from experience. I had a career change to a health/athletic related profession where drinking wasn't common, so it was awkward being the only person at the beer keg; I was use to fighting to get in line. That was my last drink of the evening.

Pay more attention to what everyone else is doing and fit it into your personality. It's a lot easier to maintain in the long-run.

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They won't notice that you are not drinking unless you make it clear to them that you are trying to say that your act of not drinking makes you "professional" and conversely they, including your prospective employers, are "unprofessional" for drinking socially. At which point you will stand out. As someone who presumes to know what professionalism and who passes judgement on others based on his notion of professionalism. Don't ask "How do I pass judgement on others and still fit in with them" - it won't work. To "know" is to "teach". Be careful what you are teaching.

If your not drinking comes down to others as merely a matter of personal choice, then they'll be too busy nursing their drinks and chatting away to notice let alone care that you are not drinking.

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