How to Work a Cocktail Party

07/19/2011 03:48 pm ET | Updated Sep 18, 2011

In New York, it's often said it's not what you know, it's who you know, and sometimes, who knows you. The real world isn't like a college admissions office; it's rarely the person with the best credentials that gets an opportunity, but the person with the best connections.

I came to New York at eighteen determined to do something in the fashion industry and five years later, through some extensive cocktail partying and -- yes, hard work too -- I'd like to think I've made something of myself in the city. I'd also like to say that it was all based on pure merit, but there a lot of very talented people who go unnoticed. What separated me? I gave good cocktail. Here's seven ways you to advance in your industry, be it art, fashion, or over clinking champagne glasses. Hey they don't call it networking for nothing.

1. Get invited
This is the obvious first step, except that it's not always so obvious. Industry cocktail parties in New York are invite-only, and depending on the function, vary in exclusivity. When you hear of an event related to your industry, find out the press person in charge of the guest list and send your request to attend, highlighting your credentials. It's never a good look to be standing outside arguing with the clipboard girl.

2. Two drink maximum
Yes there is free booze at these parties, but that doesn't mean that you should raid the open bar -these events are for schmoozing, not boozing. You wouldn't show up to the office smashed (I hope) so getting drunk in a roomful of peers isn't smart either.

3. Arrive with someone chic
In The Rules of Seduction, there's no better way to make someone interested in you than by showing that you're already wanted. Think about it, doesn't that slightly balding guy at the bar look slightly more enticing when a pretty young woman is draped over him? You start to wonder what he has to compensate for his mediocre looks. Not only will this person attract others to you (and maybe they'll already know people), but they'll provide a buffer from awkward conversation and can make the bar trip for refills.

4. Get photographed
"If you weren't photographed, you might as well have not been there," used to be one of my favorite expressions during my party days. People are attracted like moths to a flame by photographer's lights. If someone is taking your picture, they'll wonder why and be more interested in talking to you, thinking that someone knows something they don't. How to do this? Stand in groups of two or three and look animated and happy, shooting ever so furtive glances the photographer's way. Works like a charm.

5. Put Down The Phone
If you're spending all your time Tweeting about how fabulous the party is, then you're missing face time with the people in the room. The only exception to this is when you are left alone for a period of time and need to look busy, important, or both.

6. Carry Business Cards
This is another one that is ostensibly obvious, but then I can't count the number of times I've been out and someone didn't have them. Not only is it a sign of professionalism, but people are a lot more likely to remember you when they come home and empty their pockets.

7. Don't overstay
You never want to be the first to arrive or the last to leave. If a cocktail is called for 7PM - 9PM, arrive around 7:45 and stay until 8:45. If there's another party happening afterwards, you can ask guests where they're headed next and attempt to piggyback on their invitation.

Adrien Field's novel, The Making of a Social Climber is available for purchase on Amazon.