Saturday, May 11, 2013

After Graduate School: Professional Etiquette

How is Professional Etiquette in the Workplace different than in Graduate School?

If you've just landed your first position after graduate school, you might be unsure of how exactly to behave in the professional world. However, you've probably already mastered most of these behaviors while you were in graduate school. In general, it's a good idea to act as you did in your interview until you get a feel for your coworkers and your office environment. After a few months, you will fit right in and know what is allowed by your superiors. Emulate a coworker who has found favor with your management, and avoid reflecting any behaviors that offend you or your boss. The most important things to consider in regards to professional etiquette are courtesy to others, confidence in yourself, and general politeness.

Tips on Professional Etiquette in the Workplace:


Intently listen to others when you are speaking to someone at work. Look them in the eye, and don't constantly look away or fidget with anything. Keep a steady and clear voice with a pleasant tone. Consider who the other person is before you engage in topics besides work. Be aware of body language to know if you are talking about something your coworker doesn't care about! If you are talking to a superior, make sure you stay short and to the point. If you are talking on the phone, avoid anything that anyone might find distracting or offensive.

Introductions and Handshakes

When shaking hands with a boss or a new acquaintance, be firm but not aggressive or crushing. A comfortable duration is a few seconds. Look the other person in the eye and avoid using two hands or patting them on the back at the same time, which can be too invasive for some people. When meeting someone, make sure you are standing, and repeat the person's name immediately after he or she says it. You could offer a kind word about looking forward to working with him or her or welcoming him or her to the company.

Vacations and Lunches

Again, it's a good idea to get a good feel for the business and your coworkers' before considering time off. Get to know how everyone reacts when someone takes a two-hour lunch, especially learning your management's opinion about such things. Establish what is acceptable on your first day of work. Always let your boss know at least a week ahead if you plan on taking a half day off for a dentist appointment or a similar scheduled necessity. You should know your employer's policy regarding paid and unpaid days off. However, before you take a day off, make sure to talk with your supervisor about whether it will be paid and about how it will affect your remaining days off for the year.


Every employer has a clear dress code policy, so go over this thoroughly before your first day of work. Keep in mind comfort and presentation while you are shopping for your new work clothes. You probably already gained a good idea about how others dress when you went in to interview. Remember to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Make sure you always wear something you wouldn't be ashamed of if you saw your CEO. Look professional, but avoid anything too casual or revealing.

Internet and Emails

Keep in mind that many employers have a right to monitor what their employees do online and may even read your email correspondences. Therefore, never do something that you would be ashamed for everyone in your workplace to see. In terms of email communication, stay professional by using appropriate salutations of Dear (name) or Hi (name). Also, end your emails appropriately by including your name and contact information. Keep everything short and to the point, and avoid nonwork topics.


Always coming to work on time is a must. You should consistently follow the time requirements you discussed with the hiring personnel; establish appropriate times of work with a superior if you have not done this already. Keep a comfortable distance between yourself and coworkers in meetings and conversations. Be considerate if you are a smoker, and look up your employer's policies toward smoking breaks and areas. Spend little to no outside time doing personal things, especially if you have just started your first corporate position. In general, be professional, and let your actions show your superiors that you deserve a promotion or a higher salary. Whether you work in academia or industry, do not be that coworker about whom everyone complains and laughs whenever you leave the room!

Keeping these professional etiquette tips in mind when starting your new position may put you on the right track for success!

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