Finding a job is hard enough, but knowing how to act at work can be just as tricky. As graduation or summer break approaches, make sure you know the proper etiquette for interacting in an office setting. Collaborating with your peers is much different in school than in a professional environment. Here are some tips from business professionals on how students should act in the workplace.
1. Learn to Network
"It's not what you know, it's who you know." This has never been more true than in today's workplace, where over 65% of jobs are either directly or indirectly gained through networking and personal contacts. There are opportunities to network everywhere- read some of the best networking tips here. But remember, networking is about making personal reciprocal connections, not just finding what someone can do for you. Keep in touch with contacts frequently and never burn bridges- it is surprising how small the professional world can be.
2. Dress for Success
Know your dress code when you go in to work. This may seem obvious, but make sure that the clothes you wear show your motivation to get the job you really want. As consultant Lori Ann Robinson says, "where you wear what you wear matters" for young workers. College has no dress code, but the workplace definitely does. Learn the expectations of your workplace before you start.
3. Be Aware of your Body Language
Saying all the right things doesn't mean much if your body language portrays apathy or unfriendliness. Use these tips to learn what your body is saying both in the interview room and the workplace. Mannerisms can speak volumes about your character and attitude, so make sure it is saying something good about you!
4. Board Room Etiquette
It may not be obvious, but there is a very subtle language to meetings that determine where and when people sit and who talks. Communication begins the moment you enter the room, and only ends at the dissolution of the meeting. You want to be respectful but at the same time speak up enough to let people know you are engaged in the meeting and outcomes. And no matter how important, do not text or email under the table!!! It is guaranteed that someone will notice and this type of behavior will reflect poorly on you.
5. Learn good Dining Etiquette
In the professional world, food and work often go together. These lunch, dinner, brunch, or coffee meetings are much different than eating in the cafeteria with your peers. Learn how to tell the difference between a salad fork and appetizer tong, and make sure your table manners are up to date. Youth is no excuse for inadvertently behaving rudely to your boss at a dinner meeting! Pausing while important people are being seated and rising from your chair when your meal and conversation is complete are two important cues to watch for.
6. Master Interpersonal Relationships
Academia is primarily an independent study, with most studying, reading, and test-taking done individually. However, in the workplace, cooperation with a team of diverse personalities and people is often crucial. There will always be co-workers that simply do not mesh well, but it is important to remember that you all work towards the same goal. Communication and teamwork, regardless of age, culture, background, attitude, or education is now expected in the workplace. Patience and maturity are key to fostering good working relationships with your colleagues, both in person as well as written communication. And be careful not to let negativity, personality conflicts, or arguments get in the way of productivity of the team.
7. Build a Relationship with your Supervisor
Show your boss that you really care about the work you do, and it can have drastic impacts on your career future. Having a good rapport with someone in a management position is crucial not only to how that person sees your work ethic, but also often improves work performance. Asking for professional advice, chatting about career paths, and bringing solutions rather than problems will always give you more credibility as a professional than just showing up and doing your work. Proving you care can open doors in the future as well as provide a professional ally.
8. Never Stop Learning
Just because you are on summer vacation or have graduated does not mean you no longer have to learn anything! Successful workers continually soak up knowledge from colleagues, books, workshops, seminars, and professional organizations to specialize in demanded skills.
With these tips, you will find an easy transition from the academic world to the workplace. Read additional advice from professionals here.