Job applications are up. That makes sense with unemployment at over 9 percent. And it means you will face stiffer competition if you are looking for a new job. Or you are pursuing a new client and have that big lunch meeting. You still have to shine in all areas to get the offer or the deal.
While your technical skills will get you in the door and will serve you well as you move forward, you must also be aware of your etiquette skills. Some of us got started early on this with parents who encouraged (or demanded) we address people using Sir and Ma’am, but that isn’t enough. In fact, the current generation of twenty-somethings grew up in a casual environment which didn’t place a premium on etiquette. Employers are complaining about this generation’s lack of social skills--and this gives you an opportunity. I know you would never check your text messages during an interview, but will you send a handwritten note to your interviewers to thank them for their time? No, you don’t have to. But should you take the chance that someone else, equally qualified as you, does and edges you out for the offer?
Technology is eroding many of the social norms and standards of the past few decades. This isn’t good or bad but it is a change and you must understand the changes. Some can work to your favor; some might work against you if you aren’t in touch.
Do you know which fork or knife to use at a meal? It might not hurt to look into that. People are looking for a reason to choose you or reject you. They are looking for people with manners and professionalism, who will be pleasant to work with. One of the largest road builders in the world conducts a nine-day corporate university twice a year where they bring in 32 people from across North America for training. As the average age of attendees has decreased in the past decade, they have seen a greater need to cover etiquette issues. In fact, they are adding several hours of this sort of instruction. (Here’s a tip: wearing your ball cap in class while the North American chairman is speaking is not appropriate.)
You don’t have to be a student of etiquette or a regular reader of Miss Manners to get it right. But it is easy to get it wrong, and that can cost you. Part of your task today is to understand the culture of the new work place. If you don’t think it’s worth your time or effort, you are putting your career at risk.
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