- The "real world" starts once you’re out of college and on the job.
- Once on the job, you’re expected to act professionally.
- Common courtesy, manners and proper use of technology are crucial.
No, we’re not talking about the hot MTV show. The real world we’re referring to is the world of employment and career opportunities. Survival in the real world requires knowing and doing the dozens of things that make the difference between being viewed as a peon and being considered sharp and savvy.
Work Life Is Not the Same as College Life
Rolling out of bed and throwing sweatpants on 10 minutes before your class may have been fine in college, but it won’t fly at work.
On the job, your outfit should be business professional, unless you are specifically told otherwise. Also, make sure you’re well groomed and that your shoes are clean/polished. When in doubt, ask the HR department or established coworkers for guidance.
One of the biggest problems for new hires relates to time commitments. Being late is never acceptable. It tells people that you value your time more than theirs. Being on time for work, meetings, appointments and with projects shows respect and professional maturity. If you’re a chronically late person, consider setting your watch back 30 minutes, or getting one with an alarm to let you know about appointments.
Awareness of Common Courtesy
In order to connect with customers, work efficiently with colleagues and ultimately succeed, it is essential to pay attention to some common courtesies. They make a difference in creating relationships and making positive impressions.
According to an article in the January 2001 issue of Training and Development magazine, MJN Consulting conducted a survey of 500 office professionals and asked them to rank the top 10 common office discourtesies according to their aggravation level. They are:
1. Not returning phone calls, voicemail, email or pages in a timely manner.
2. Using the last piece of paper in the printer or copier and not refilling paper trays.
3. Showing up late to meetings or answering cell phones during meetings.
4. Making a mess of the microwave and not cleaning it up.
5. Setting the copy machine for special copy features and not changing it back.
6. Cruising the office, visiting people instead of doing work.
7. Clogging the email system with long messages, jokes and downloads.
8. Borrowing coworkers’ office supplies and not returning them.
9. Taking the last cup of coffee and not making more.
10. Playing the radio or CDs too loudly or constantly.
To avoid discourtesies toward your coworkers, keep in mind the following:
- Say "please," "thank you," "hello" and "good-bye." It sounds so easy, but many take this one for granted.
- Smile and look interested in others — and listen.
- Open doors (regardless of gender).
- Look at people when talking to them.
- Be helpful.
- Respect others’ time.
- Compliment people.
- Write thank-you notes.
- Do what you say you will do.
- Be aware of slang.
- Avoid foul language.
- Explain acronyms and jargon.
- Avoid sarcasm.
- Power robbers such as "I hope," "I guess," "maybe" and "probably" undercut credibility.
- Be careful where you hold conversations (elevators, hallways, public transportation, restaurants, airlines, etc.)
Use Technology Appropriately
- Cell phones: Don’t hold private conversations in public places, never disrupt the service you’re performing or the meeting you’re attending to take a call, and turn your phone off when conducting business with others.
- Pagers/beepers: Put on vibrate and don’t check private or confidential information in front of others.
- Email: Do a spell check before sending out, keep the length short and use a subject line.
- Fax: Include a cover page that has the number of pages and your phone number.
- Speaker phone: Don’t use unless it’s a conference call. People who don’t pick up their phones are seen as arrogant.
- Voice mail: Keep your message short and change it regularly so people know when to reach you. When leaving a message, say your name and number slowly at the beginning and again at the end.
- Telephone: Put a smile on your face and nothing in your mouth. When scheduling an appointment, make sure you are very specific — double-check dates and times.
Article copyright 2002 Brody Communications.