Although students graduating from college have been adults for years, somehow, graduating magically transforms them into 'real' adults who are expected to act differently. Some soon-to-be graduating students and I were kicking around thoughts this afternoon on new expectations.Ten things to think about: trivial, practical, and profound . .
Drop the eye roll. Rolling your eyes in response to something someone else says communicates disdain and disrespect. In his observations studies of marriage, John Gottman found it to be one of the very best predictors that newlyweds would divorce within the next six years. The eye roll peaks in adolescence. Most people grow out of it. Yet a surprising number of students continue to roll their eyes at adults in authority (e.g., parents and professors). Stop it! Right now. It's a terrible habit. It will annoy your parents - who you may well be living with again soon. It will piss off your friends and romantic partners. It will get you fired. You're an adult. This is a habit you want to break now.
Get a permenant, professional e-mail address. If you are graduating from college, the e-mail you have used will probably disappear in a few months. Even if it doesn't, it will not feel right using it come January. You probably have other e-mail accounts you use with friends, but they may not have names you'd like to put on a resume. (Bunnyfuzz, Crackwhore and Dragonbuster are all student addresses whose origins I've wondered about but just didn't want to know.) It's time to find a mail service that will remain stable for several years and claim a Plain.Jane address to put on your resume. Who knows? You may drop off a resume this month and a year later they may decide you are the perfect person for that job. You want to make sure they can find you.
Search the web for your name and your image. If images are up there you don't want an employer to see, take them down. Facebook and GooglePlus both have decent features for making personal images personal. Learn how to use them. And remember - just because you've never posted a picture of yourself doesn't mean no one else has.
Take your smartphone seriously. Smartphones are great resources.
Learn to answer a phone and end the call politely. We use our phones so much, we often don't think about how we present ourselves on them. If a potential employer wants to interview you, they're going to call.
Repeat what people tell you. One consistently excellent habit my students who have been in the military have is that they repeat back instructions when we finish talking. We've chatted, ideas were floated about what to do next. When the meeting or call is finished, they repeat back what they are to do next and what I will do next. That way we are both clear on next steps and we each have a chance to clarify misunderstandings. I feel listened to. They sound competent and confident. A very professional way of ending a call or an interview and a good habit to get into.
Learn to write a letter - or an e-mail. You are going to be writing dozens of letters, cover letters, and e-mails in the next months. That will continue for the rest of your life. It's time to learn to do it right. Standard block form. Appropriate greetings. Don't start a business email with Hi, my name is . . . Google it. There are lots of good sites. Probably some of them are on your school's Career Office webpage. The more letters you write, the better you will get at it. Develop a standard way of doing it and a collection of good stock letters you can draw on (the internet can help). You might even think about improving your penmanship. Sometimes you have to write things by hand too - and thank you notes go a long way.
Review table manners. A surprising number of interviews and meetings with professional contacts involve sharing meals - or at least coffee. Don't flunk lunch. Many schools offer brief refreshers in table manners. It may sound snobby (okay, it IS snobby), but you will be judged on how you hold your fork, how you use a spoon, how you cut your meat, and where you put your teaspoon after you stir your coffee. PLEASE don't stir cofee with your knife. There are lots of good sites (here is one).
I'll leave most etiquette to sites devoted to that topic. A few simple tips that are easy to forget . . .
Express gratitude. Don't be embarrassed to say 'thank you' or express your appreciation. Professors, fellow students, people who are giving you advice, people who are interviewing you. Your parents, who are putting you up. Your friends who are putting up with you. A thank you never goes amiss.
In fact, wriitng thank you notes for graduation presents is a wonderful way to begin your new life as well as a nice way of making the giftgiver think you were worth the effort they made. And yes, send the note even if you've already said 'thank you' in person. It will feel good.
Be polite and respectful to secretaries, staff, and support workers. The world is full of people who work hard to make things happen. Be nice to them, they are seldom appreciated as much as they should be or told how valuable their work is. It will make them feel good. Frankly, it will make you feel good - feeling gratitude and appreciation promote happiness and well-being. Pragmatically, they are important. They sort letters, put through calls, and take messages. They can choose to provide you with information that can make your life easier. If you're lucky, you may soon have a job and treating your fellow employees with respect and appreciation is a habit you should foster in yourself. You will appreciate it when others treat you with respect. Return the favor.
Get out of bed at a reasonable hour. Finally, after you take that well-deserved sleep catchup after graduation, get out of bed at a reasonable hour. As a student, 10:00 may seem early and 9:00 obscene. Most people who work have been up for hours by then. Coordinating your schedule with the rest of the working world will make contacting others easier, will buy you more hours of daylight, and will make it easier to coordinate your schedule with that of your housemates or family. Wouldn't it be embarassing if an interviewer called at 9 on the dot and you were still in a muzzy sleep state?
Congratulations and welcome to the rest of your life!
Other pieces for college grads . . .