Classroom to Corporate–Part 4

By now you’re all wowing your co-workers with our communication skills, but there’s much more to discuss when it comes to professionalism.

First Impressions

The last thing you want to do in a new office is get off on the wrong foot. As some of us may know, it takes a long time to change someone’s mind about you. So if you stumbled into a meeting a few weeks ago with your tie askew, your hair mussed and a coffee stain on your shirt, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Who do you want to be? How do you want others to think of you? This includes your appearance, attitude, personality, values and more. As a recruiter I’ve seen a few red flags early on from some of my new hires. One fell asleep during training. To make matters worse, she fell asleep while the GM was talking! Unfortunately, there was no coming back from that mistake. One guy just couldn’t seem to retain information during the interview process. He constantly mixed up dates and times as if he had no recollection that we’d ever spoken. Given the complexity of our business I brought the matter to the manager and questioned whether we should still bring him on board. These are things that are hard for a manager to ignore and, sadly, it can take months for that new hire to change the manager’s mind.

On a more positive note we’ve also had several candidates come into the business, pick it up quickly and get promoted at warp speed. One young lady several years ago took time to visit one of our offices for several hours before she ever applied. When I found out I knew she really wanted the job and she’s been extremely successful. That is what you want people to remember.

Another place where you can make a good first impression is during company meals. Of course, you want to follow the rules of etiquette: napkin in your lap, work from the outside in with your silverware and remember your bread plate is on your left and your drink on your right. If you tend to forget, simply watch the Top Dog at the table and do what she does.

Beyond the basics, order how she orders, wait until everyone gets their meals before digging in, and don’t eat as though it’s your last meal. If everyone else orders the $20 meal, I beg you not to order the market price lobster and dessert.

Catty Co-Workers

Choose your friends wisely. When you first arrive at the job you don’t know the lay of the land. You have no idea that Shirley is a gossip who used to date Bob in Sales and Mike in Marketing. Not to mention Tony in Accounting was accused of skimming money but it really turned out to be Stacy who they canned right away. And Troy used to be some bigwig in the company but got demoted instead of fired because he’s the nephew of one of the higher ups.

And guess what? You don’t want to know. Anyone bringing you news like this is going to drag you down with them. Make your own observations. Draw your own conclusions. And don’t buddy up with those you perceive as troublemakers. I promise they will make trouble for you.

Have a great week, and stop back next time for more tips in professionalism.


Classroom to Corporate—Part 3



Everyone knows how to act like a professional, right? Oh so wrong! Sure, we might know how to speak correctly, give a firm handshake, chew with our mouths closed during the lunch meeting—you know, the basics. But oftentimes it’s the little things we never think about that might cause others to question our professionalism. And you never want that to keep you from getting ahead.

Communication  Image by Boykung


I’ve said it before. Verbal and written communication both count. I met a student years ago who really struggled in this area. The problem was she didn’t know it. She simply spoke the way she’d always spoken, which was more than likely a result of what she’d always heard. I remember hearing a popular financial expert say something similar. He heard a recording of someone’s radio broadcast and thought, Wow, listen to that slang. That guy sounds way too casual to be taken seriously–then immediately realized he was listening to a clip from his own show! He had no idea how much room there was for improvement up to that point. Once he did, he went through training to help him become a better communicator. I gave the student the same advice.

You might think, what’s the big deal? People should accept me with all my flaws. That’s fine for an entrepreneur perhaps (and even they could discover clients prefer to deal with someone who can adequately demonstrate their expertise via their communication style) but right now, you represent a company and its brand and there is a certain way they’d like you to do so.

No one is immune. I’d like to think after all the years I’ve spent in a professional role that my communication is stellar, but I sometimes still catch myself being a little too lax in conversation and I have to take my own advice.


Image by aopsanRealizing that spelling is not everyone’s forte, spell check—and real live proofreaders (aka co-workers)—are your friends. Imagine if your manager sent out a message filled with misspelled words. Wouldn’t it make you scratch your head in confusion? Make you wonder how he ever got promoted? You might even doubt his ability to successfully run your division and be reluctant to follow his lead. I very rarely send out an email or letter at work without having someone else read it over first because when we read our own material it’s easy to overlook typos. Much to my chagrin I’ve even gone back to some of my posts here to make corrections!

Obviously, there are medical conditions that make written communication a struggle, so remember, there is nothing wrong with seeking help. Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, and author Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) all overcame the challenges of dyslexia to achieve great success.

One other note under the communications heading: say no to ringback tones. If someone calls you at the office, or your manager calls you for some reason, you don’t want Blurred Lines or Thrift Shop blaring. This is your career, not the dance club.

Take a moment to choose a more appropriate setting for your phone, and remember to stop back next time for more advice on professionalism in the workplace.

Classroom to Career–Part 2

Image by Ambro

Image by Ambro


You’re a couple months into your new career. Everything was exciting and new on that first day but now, although you still like your job things are beginning to feel…well, a little boring. You’re so used to having a variety of tasks due to all your commitments: classroom projects, your business fraternity, student government and volunteering. Every weekend brought a new undertaking or an event to coordinate.

What should you do? You don’t want to quit, but if this is all you’ll be doing for the next (gulp) year or more you can’t promise the thought hasn’t run through your mind. Maybe another company out there has something better to offer. Maybe you should check out Monster.

Hold on, people. Finger off the panic button, please. You just got there! By no means have you seen all your company has to offer in two measly months. Or even six measly months. Those who jump ship quickly often regret it later and wish they’d given that first choice just a little more time.

Want to add some more responsibilities to your plate? Try the following:

Start by asking some questions. Talk to those who brought you on board or your manager if possible. What are their responsibilities? Ask what you can do to help them reach their goals.

Image by Gualberto 107

Image by Gualberto 107

Shadowing. Ideally this is something you should request during the interview, but it might not be part of the process or realistic for every company. Shadow those in the positions in which you’re interested if you can, including your manager.

Ask someone to lunch. If a company hired you it is in their best interest for you to succeed, so they should appreciate your desire to build relationships within the organization. Ask people to lunch—both in and out of your division—and take time to learn what they do.

Just ask! Let people know you’d like to learn as much as possible and you want to take on more. But prove yourself in your current role first to earn their trust. Years ago I spent an afternoon riding around with my Area Manager asking her questions about her responsibilities so I knew how to prepare for promotion.

Evaluate your long-term goals and consider what you’ve learned from your conversations and observations. What do you need to know and do to get to the next step? What tasks—both at work and at home—can you take on to help you get there?

Not only will you increase your knowledge but, by taking these steps, you will let others know you’re serious about your career, you plan to stick around and you’re open to learning more. Once they can trust you, your managers should be eager to give you more responsibility. And with responsibility comes opportunity.

Stop back next time when we’ll continue discussing your transition to Corporate America in the area of professionalism.