Many companies hire college interns for the summer or throughout the year. It’s a great way for college students to gain valuable work experience and develop professional workplace behaviors (etiquette).
I recently conducted a professional etiquette seminar for a group of college interns with a local bank. In order to give the interns some “real world” examples of how they can be more polished, poised, and professional in the work environment, I went straight to the source: my professional friends and colleagues.
These professionals were from all over the country and included small business owners as well as vice presidents of large corporations. Regardless of their title or position, some common themes kept showing up. With only 45 minutes per session, I set out to get all I could share with the interns. Much to my amazement, I received an overwhelming response. I had a LOT to choose from.
To summarize my findings, following are my (the) Top 10n Workplace Etiquette Tips. These tips are can be useful reminders for everyone working in the workplace — not just interns. I have decided to include the other tips, along with additional commentary, in my upcoming Life Etiquette Book.
Ms. J’s Top Ten Workplace Etiquette Tips
- 1. Be prepared. For the interview, for the meeting, for the conference. Just be prepared.
- 2. Dress appropriately. Ask what is appropriate business-casual attire before you show up in sweatshirts and jeans.
- 3. Use professional language in the workplace. Use complete sentences — minimal slang, zero profanity.
- 4. Use proper phone etiquette, especially when answering a call — this includes lowering the volume on any background music prior to taking the call.
- 5. Respect your co-workers’ space. Upon entering the workplace or someone’s space, acknowledge that person by using their name when you speak to them. Making eye contact is also important.
- 6. Leave your personal problems at the door. Your coworkers have their own issues. Keep your time at your workplace work-focused.
- 7. Watch your mouth! Remember that any form of offensive language, actions or gestures could be the cause of disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
- 8. No gossiping! If you perceive gossip is coming your way, make your exit quickly and quietly.
- 9. Be direct and discreet. Arguing with co-workers via email or instant messaging instead of addressing them in person and privately can be damaging to current and future relationships.
- 10. Be mindful of your cell phone usage. Oh my, this a big one! It’s a privilege, not a right, to be able to use your cell phone during work hours. I have numerous examples of people who have been fired — yes, terminated — because they refused to follow the cell phone policy.
I had a hiring manager tell me that the interviewee was using the phone to take notes during the interview — head down the entire time. The manager became so frustrated that he said in so many words, “Stop, I need to see your eyes.” The manager felt dissed — disrespected, disregarded and dismissed.
The way you conduct yourself on the job is often a reflection of not only you but your school, your boss and the person who hired you. Take the internship or job seriously, and do your “professional best.” That’s good professional etiquette. That’s good Life Etiquette.
This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.