Etiquette Tips for the Young Business Professional in Training

By Jhanay Davis, Editorial Intern

I used to pride myself on “knowing how to act.” My grandparents, who raised me and my sisters, never tolerated any kind of unruly behavior. Both were from Alabama and worked hard to establish themselves as working professionals in Atlanta. With my grandparents, I attended many social events — dining with Atlanta’s most affluent and influential healthcare professionals and Georgia Power employees. During my teenage years, I stayed active with things like being a debutante which taught me many life lessons.

It wasn’t until I began my undergraduate studies at Bennett College for Women that I realized I really didn’t know “how to act.” The upper class women in my major (journalism and media studies) always talked about being professional when meeting people. I had no idea what that meant because I felt that I had never been taught. My ignorance turned into fear and insecurity. I was afraid that when I met someone professional, I would choke. Because of that fear, I tried to avoid those types of encounters but they’re inevitable on the path to success, especially in journalism.

So here’s some of what I picked up so far:

Language: It is essential to be comfortable speaking because it is one of the primitive forms of communication. Adapt your speech to your environment in order to be understood. Diction with friends should differ from what is said among colleagues and superiors. All words should be enunciated and verbs should always agree with nouns. Also, avoid double negatives at all costs. Practice makes permanent, so integrating these factors into your everyday speech will yield great results. Also, be selective of language when sending professional e-mails and socializing using social media.

Personality: No one ever wants to be a bore. Let’s face it; no one wants to be around a bore either. Personality is what makes every individual unique, so don’t be afraid to show  it. Be careful: Do not get too comfortable with your colleagues. If it’s something that you would never do or say around your mom or a priest, avoid it in the work place.

Appearance: Fashion sense is an extension of personality. What someone decides to wear shows a lot about what kind of person he/she is. In corporate America, vibrant colors are often frowned upon. However, I believe they can be acceptable. Black, gray, and blue are always going to be appropriate but patterns and light colors could also fit into that arena. Many garments are suitable work attire as long as they are tasteful and never revealing.

Networking: Once again, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through when meeting and connecting with new people. It is necessary to be as professional, upbeat, and memorable as possible. Young business professionals (i.e. interns) should always be dressed to impress, make eye contact and have a firm handshake.

Dining: This is part of the professional life that I have yet to experience much of but I hope it’s in my near future. Past experiences have prompted me on a few things though: never put your elbows on the table or speak with food in your mouth. Other things depend on the occasion, such as what to order, when to stand, etc. Fortunately, I’ve found that following the lead of others at the table can be beneficial when in doubt.

These tips, as am I, are a work in progress. I hope  they will help another hopeful by laying a foundation to proper decorum in, out, and around the office.

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