Published on February 8th, 2016 | by GGF0
It’s time to file for graduation and you’re double checking your classes. English 101? Took it. Science for Business Majors? Got an A+. Business Etiquette and Protocol? What? While it’s not yet a required course at most colleges, many experts think that it should be. More importantly, taking an etiquette course might be even more important than some of the technical courses required for your major.
So what is a business etiquette course? A class where students learn to hold their pinkies in the air while they sip tea? Do students learn poise and grace by balancing their book on their head? Maybe they just study re-runs of Martha Stewart and practice looking down their noses at other people.
Actually, today’s business etiquette courses, being offered at schools nationwide, focus mainly on creating positive first impressions, dressing for success, business netiquette and basic etiquette. These lessons are not a part of the average college student’s curriculum, but they are very important after graduation. Many of the students here at Fullerton College taking Business Protocol and Ethics feel that mastering these skills will give them an edge when breaking into the job market as well as helping them accelerate their careers.
Evidence points to the advantages of having professional etiquette training. According to Fullerton College etiquette instructor Jackie Sanborn, “85% of success in business is personal skills; only 15% is technical skills”. Fullerton College Workforce Center Coordinator Chrystal Van Beynen agrees that employers seek out candidates with “soft skills” because the technical aspects of the specific job will often have to be taught; regardless of prior field experience. First and foremost, employers want to hire individuals who they think will best fit in and represent the company and its image. That may mean hiring someone who may be less qualified in terms of education and experience but who projects a positive, professional image.
So, this means we should all drop out of college and work on our people skills right? Quit the internship and extracurricular activities to learn to dine Continental style? Slow down, not yet! Hate to disappoint you but you still need to finish school.First impressions count
A woman ran into a group of students in downtown Fullerton or rather ran over and shoved herself past a group of students. They were shocked by the way she rolled over their toes with her bag to help herself to the refreshments that the students had provided for a private event. Too surprised to speak, the students listened horrified as what can only be described as verbal diarrhea spilled from her mouth. She gave a speech about what a horrible day she had had; why her rude party-crashing behavior was justified. She never quite apologized, but she did announce in a self-important tone that the reason she was so frantic was because she was a very busy teacher at Fullerton College and went on to mention the department she worked in. In that split 30 seconds, she managed to damage the reputation of her entire department by leaps and bounds. Her monologue also had the potential to taint her audience’s opinions about the other 1,123 employees at FC. And don’t forget about FC students, because she potentially made the nearly 20,000 students here look bad, when she identified herself as an instructor. Like the old woman who swallowed the fly, the consequences of poor etiquette skills and lack of professionalism can multiply out of control.
Sanborn notes that when you work for an organization, you are a representative of that organization. You are liable for your words and actions if you choose to identify yourself as a member of that organization when you are outside the workplace. As mentioned earlier, employers generally want to hire people who are professional and demonstrate proper manners both inside and outside of the office.
College students should start practicing professional etiquette early on. “I see students coming in here searching for jobs-talking on cell phones, using bad language-and acting rudely,” stated Crystal Velazquez, the Workforce Center Assistant, “It makes you wonder how they would behave on a job interview!”
Some simple ways to create a positive first impression include using good manners, having a non-threatening appearance, a good sense of humor, smiling, using good eye contact and showing respect for others.
Dressing for Success
You can’t talk about presentation and first impressions without mentioning physical appearance, so get ready to be judge by your cover. Like it or not, human beings make judgments about each other based on appearance all the time; it’s just in our nature. What does your grooming and wardrobe say about you?
In a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 92% of employers surveyed said that a job candidate’s appearance influenced their opinion of the individual. Professional image consultant Diana Jennings works with individuals and corporations wishing to evaluate and re-vamp their appearances. She says that many individuals confuse the workplace with a place to express their personal style. Unfortunately, unless you work in a creative field, your personal sense of style is completely irrelevant.
A survey conducted by the Fullerton College Workforce Center showed that many companies had dress codes and policies about tattoos, piercing and wild hair colors. In addition, personal expression through dress and hairstyle was discouraged by 78% of the employers questioned. Employers also rated the following items as being unacceptable on job interviews: midriff showing, T-shirts, tight or revealing clothing, miniskirts, hats, baggy clothing, low rise pants, jeans, sandals or platform shoes and wrinkled clothing.
Appropriate Attire specifics will depend on the type of work environment and dress code. When in doubt, it’s always ok to contact the company to find out what type of attire is appropriate for the interview. Overall, it’s best to remember that a clean, neat, and conservative appearance will always do well.
What is business netiquette?
Internet etiquette, also known as netiquette awareness is increasing. Not only do you have to be business savvy in person and on the phone but you should also check your understanding of netiquette. Sanborn reminds students not to use the office computer for personal matters because some employers may monitor your computer activities and email. Remember emails don’t just go away when you delete them, they can be retrieved and tracked. She also mentions that is important to use Bcc when sending bulk emails so business contact’s email addresses are not distributed to everyone receiving the email.
In an article for MonsterTrak.com titled “Five Ways to say, ‘I’m unprofessional,” Peter Vogt discusses silly email addresses. Sure, all your friends think that firstname.lastname@example.org is hilarious, but will business associates? Think twice before sending out your resume from an email address like this one. The same goes for silly fonts and icons.
Email messages should be free from slang and “CU@8”- type abbreviations. An email in the professional world is not a chat room; it is a brief memo with proper spelling, punctuation and signature. You wouldn’t write a business letter and sign it with a punctuation smiley face would you?
Basic etiquette defined
In her Business Protocol and Ethics course, Sanborn defines etiquette as a courtesy we extend to help other people. Like a good party host, someone with professional etiquette skills will try to make others feel comfortable and at east at all times. They handle situations with grace and politeness. They would never give more information then was appropriate. They also would never point out that you have poor manners. You see, one of the worst things about having poor manners is that no one will tell you (it would be improper etiquette to point out improper etiquette). You wont be told that the reason you didn’t get the job was because you sat with your knees apart (and you were wearing a skirt). You’ll only be told that you didn’t get the job.
In the real world (after graduation) manners do matter. College students should view etiquette training as an addition to required courses that will make their degree more valuable in the real world.