My daughter has yet to have her first job, so she doesn’t understand the annual company picnic and the semi-obligation it represents to adults. Why it can be important. So, last night when I tried to explain my excitement about going to my dad’s company picnic every year throughout my childhood, Paige was unconvinced.
Dad worked at Armco steel refinery near Ashland, Ky. Every year, we would travel 20 minutes to the local amusement park, Camden Park (it’s still open! And rickety as ever, I’m sure). Armco was one of two major employers in the area, so big that they could rent out a whole amusement park and it would still be full with families and their kids. In an out-of-the-way section where there were covered tents and picnic tables, several would be filled with a feast of picnic food and drinks. And being one of the few corporations, guess who else was there? All our friends! It was a day made in heaven and corndogs.
There are different versions of the company picnic, but the feeling remains the same. At one company, as a single adult, we took a boat trip on the bay, traveling under the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping at an island to go hiking. At another company, Stanford, they sponsored a traditional picnic, but offered science-oriented activities for kids. Another reserved a corner of Golden Gate Park and supplied hula hoops, games, even fishing.
This year, and for the 3rd year in a row, my kids and I head to Skywalker Ranch, doing up the company picnic in the most traditional old-fashioned sense of the word, with a country band, stacked hay bales, horse-drawn carriage rides, BBQ (catered, of course), and swimming in the lake. It’s hot and dusty on a working ranch at the beginning of July, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing year after year so far.
And I think they serve their purpose – a non-monetary perk to get everybody together so they can bond outside of work which can only increase our camaraderie inside work.
There’s two sides to a company picnic, though, don’t you think? One is that it’s an optional event, unless you’re being forced to work at it, and then it’s no perk at all. The other is that you get a point (bing!) for your willingness to go see people you work with, outside of work. To get to know each other’s husbands, wives or kids is useful in creating bonds you can use later. To get to know their families is beneficial when higher levels of management start thinking about promotions and expanded roles and your name and attention to detail and friendliness come up.”Jenny, how’s Bob doing? Is he still sailing?” or “Amy, your little boy has grown so much in the last year. How old is he now?”
We professionals know we get a point for going to the picnic, the Christmas party, participating in the holiday gift-giving; all that stuff.
I tried to explain ‘networking’ to my kid at the same time as I talked about the company party and why we go (not just for the trucked in gelato like she thinks!) and she didn’t believe that networking was a real term. Oh, there is so much to learn in corporate America. Let’s just start off with a little party.