This section will provide you with skills and knowledge needed to have meaningful and professional interactions with employers, clients, and colleagues.
Professional etiquette provides a basic set of guidelines to make business life go smoothly. Following are several directives which, if followed, will help you secure employment and advance in your career.
Common Courtesies: Hold the door open for the person behind you. Put items back where you found them. Return a borrowed item in the same condition. Show appreciation; compliment others. Do what you say you will do. Say “please” and “thank you.” Offer assistance to others. Assume the best unless you have facts to prove otherwise.
Introductions and Greetings: When you are first introduced, stand up to meet the person if possible. If you are introducing other people, introduce the lower ranked person to the higher ranked person (for example: “Mr./Mrs. Greater Authority, I would like to introduce Mr./Mrs. Lesser Authority to you.”) If you have forgotten someone’s name, politely ask for a reminder.
Work Hours: Always be punctual. Pay attention to policies related to breaks and absences. If possible, avoid requesting leave during the first few months on the job. Avoid excessive absenteeism.
Meetings: Arrive several minutes early and ask if you are uncertain about the seating pattern. Turn off your cellphone and give your attention to the speaker. Let the speaker know if you plan to use your phone to search for information during the meeting. Do not interrupt; note what is shared and share your points later. If providing a report, be concise and stay on subject. Unless directed otherwise, do not share information discussed in closed meetings.
Social and Business Events: Attend when possible. Mingle and meet new people. Maintain a professional image. Give your attention to those present by putting your cellphone away unless you are expecting an urgent message. Never hold a glass and plate in both hands — you need your right hand free to shake hands with others. Limit intake or refrain from all alcohol. Do not appear that you came just for the food.
Conversations: Listen to others attentively and speak when they have finished speaking. Maintain eye contact and keep a polite tone and appropriate volume. Keep your conversations brief and on track. Do not ask personal questions or offer too much personal information. Be sociable, but avoid gossip.
Public Speaking: Speak in a way that suits the circumstances and the audience and that is authentic to your style. Avoid using offensive language even in casual settings. Be aware of your allotted time and stay on track.
Phone Communication: Turn off your cellphone or switch to silent mode when you are not on breaks or at lunch. Accept personal calls while on breaks or in urgent situations only. When leaving voice mail messages, speak slowly and clearly. Provide your name and a number at the beginning and end of a lengthy message. Always speak politely.
Personal Space: Try to stand no closer than an arm’s length away from the person with whom you are speaking. Keep your voice at a level appropriate for your work environment during phone calls and face-to-face conversations. Do not decorate your work space with items that might offend others, especially if it is a shared space.
Shared Space: Take responsibility for cleaning up after yourself when using counters and appliances shared with others. Avoid strong smells that will travel throughout the office. Wash and return utensils and cups and label items placed in the refrigerator. If using a shared photocopier, make sure the paper tray is full when you leave it.
Deadlines: Be on time or early on deadlines. Know what and when you need to submit as you begin a project. Be sensitive and flexible regarding others’ schedules when working on team projects.
Neatness: Management may view neatness as organized and precise. Appear to be neat. Maintain a clutter-free work area especially if you share work space with a colleague.
If invited for a meal interview, remember that, in addition to your interviewing skills, your table manners are being observed. Learning proper dining etiquette will serve you well in many business and social settings.
Order foods that can be eaten with utensils. Avoid foods that are difficult to eat. Do not order the most expensive item on the menu. A la carte items are ordered and priced separately.
Terms like business professional and business casual can leave you wondering what to wear. Business casual can mean different things to different employers, and business professional depends on the industry and organizational culture.
The following lists offer commonly accepted guidelines for understanding terms associated with dress and for expanding your wardrobe to include items appropriate for networking and interviewing.