The Top 10 Things They Forgot to Teach in School

I am a firm believer in hiring people who are fresh out of school. But, I will say that there should be a course in college dedicated to Work Etiquette. And, some of the people who have been out for years could stand to go to it as well. I’m all for a casual environment to spark creativity and promote team bonding. There are just a few things that I wish people already knew when they enter the corporate world.

Here are some on my list that should be included in an Etiquette syllabus:

1. Put your phone away during meetings.

Unless you’re taking a group photo and not a Selfie, there is no need to check your Instagram or Twitter. You are most definitely important, but for the duration of a meeting, you need to force yourself not to touch your phone. It’s rude.

2. Instant Messaging should not be used to gossip quietly.

Of course, straight up gossiping in the hallway is not OK either. You may think it’s cool and fun to IM someone about the cute boy down the hall, or the unfashionable fashion of the girl in the next cube, or your boss’s latest gaffe in the last meeting. But, it’s not. IM gossip is still gossip. And you need to refrain.

3. Some things are better left unsaid.

Learn to think before you speak. (I learned this one the hard way!) Even though you want to contribute to the conversation, be thoughtful in your approach and use your words wisely. Most importantly, watch your facial expressions and your body language, as sometimes they are just as loud as your silence.

4. Don’t set up your lunch date in front of other people.

Remember when you felt left out because you didn’t get invited to the birthday party? It’s the same feeling when you leave someone out of a group lunch date. Just include the person you are standing with or talking to when you get the call. You never know, you may actually become friends with someone new.

5. Clean up after yourself in the kitchen.

Your mother does not come to work and is not there to clean up after you. It’s a corporate office, not a dorm room or an apartment, so you have to be considerate of others in the office. Your leftover dishes is not for someone else to clean up and your science experiment in the refrigerator needs to be thrown out by you.

6. The office is not the best place to find your next date. Dress appropriately.

The last thing your boss wants to do is have a conversation about what you are wearing. While you know you look great in your Forever 21 outfit, some fashion statements are best left for going out on the town. Think before you dress.

7. Respect those around you as they may actually know something you don’t…yet.

This is a two-way street, I realize that. Just remember that you don’t know what you don’t know yet and your new job is a new beginning. For you and for those around you. You can learn from them and they should always be open to learning from you. Mutual respect is the key to winning people over quickly. It’s probably not a good tactic to tell everyone what you used to do at your last job was so much better than the way they are doing it at your new job. Find a better way to deliver the message.

8. Don’t pack up your stuff 15 minutes before 5p.

This isn’t high school, there is no bell that’s going to sound off and everyone dumps into the hallway. Packing up your stuff to leave is a sign to your boss that you don’t have enough to do.

9. When you do leave the office, say goodbye. 

You may even ask if there is anything you can do before you leave. This simple gesture will not only be appreciated, it will get remembered at the time of your review. It’s not brown nosing, as much as it is being considerate of others.

10. Keep smiling, no matter what.

There’s a lot to be said about having a positive attitude. Negativity spreads like wildfire. But if you stay positive, it can be contagious. Long hours, hard work, and a never ending inbox can weigh you down. In the end, those with a positive attitude make for great employee promotions and reward. Besides, if you can’t smile and enjoy your job, it may not be the right fit for you anyway. Love what you do and bloom where you are planted.

Believe me, I’m not making a statement against hiring recent grads. Just the opposite. I believe they are our future corporate executives. Helping them make the transition from college to the real corporate world without making a wrong first impression is a good thing. This list is by no means complete, but it is a good start. These are things that aren’t taught in school but are learned in the real world sometimes quite by accident. And since there isn’t a course that teaches what might seem like common sense, nor is there a First Job Manual per say, and since your parents don’t come to work with you on your first day… it is important to remember you don’t get a second chance to redo your first impression except at your next job.

Ann Rimkus
About the author: 

Ann Peebles Rimkus is the Vice President – Strategy for The Point Group, a full-service, integrated marketing communications firm in Dallas, TX.  Her career includes assignments as a Vice President at both Leo Burnett and The Hay Agency, and as a Director at Mary Kay and Wyndham Hotels. Follow Ann on Twitter and LinkedIn.