Drinking with colleagues can sometimes be a minefield. Here are a few of our thoughts to help you navigate!
Is it a structured work drinks or a casual after-work hang?
If it's the former, then you should almost always go. If it's the latter, then it's optional, but you shouldn't skip them every time.
Structured work drinks are basically company-sponsored networking sessions. This is a great opportunity to meet people in and outside of your team (especially if you are new!). The more people you know and get along with in the company, the better, as you'll be able to collaborate with them more effectively as "work friends" as opposed to "work strangers". People also tend to choose colleagues to join the best projects they have in part based on how well they get on together, so it's crucial to establish good relations early.
Casual after-work hangs are great opportunities to develop good relationships at work too! But these are less critical. Have a think about who is going, whether you enjoy their company and how often you are likely to overlap in the future. You shouldn't miss too many of these though, lest others will think of you as a hermit! (especially if its your boss who's inviting you - you don't want them to think that you don't enjoy spending time with them)
How is your alcohol tolerance?
From your experience, do you tolerate alcohol well? If your tolerance is low, you might want to keep an eye on what and how much you drink. I've seen colleagues get so drunk that they fell down the stairs in front of the whole office. It's not a great look, so do make sure don't drink to a point where you lose all levels of professionalism.
To reduce alcohol consumption, you can do a few things:
Pace yourself - you can drink a little more slowly
Make sure you're ordering singles, not doubles (and stay away from shots!)
Alternate between ordering alcoholic soda/cola mixed drinks and plain soda/colas. No one will know the difference if you play it cool ;)
I've seen people toss shots over their shoulder and pretend that they drank it. That is a pro-level move that not everyone has the skills to master
Are you comfortable in this setting?
This is perhaps the most important question. If you don't feel comfortable - it's important to know why:
Is it because there's a person actively trying to get people drunk in a creepy way? If so, please don't join their drinks, and when it's a corporate event, make sure you are far away from them!
Is it because you don't feel comfortable with your colleagues? If so, you might want to have a think about how you fit in with the corporate culture more generally, and if it's the best fit for you
Is it because you just don't like to drink? I'm in two minds on this one. On one hand, you shouldn't have to do something you fundamentally don't want to. But on the other hand, most people do prefer to work with others who they've had a good time with (and drinking is one of the most convenient ways to achieve this). I guess you'll have to balance these 2 things and see how you feel... a solution could be to go to the bar, and order drinks that could pass off as alcohol. If someone has a better solution for this - please let me know!