Do You Have Your Keys?

Schl¸ssel zum ErfolgDo you have your keys?

Not to your car or house, but the keys to your professional success. Just as a physical key will gain you access to enter a door, there are “keys” of knowledge that will give you access to opportunities in life.

A friend of mine likes to say, “You don’t know what you don’t know, but others do.” Barbara B. Bergstrom is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and expert on business etiquette and protocol. She is highly valued in our community for her wisdom when it comes to questions of etiquette.

I recently was in a situation where a friend had done something at my residence that I deemed improper from a standpoint of social etiquette, besides just plain presumptuous and thoughtless. We got into a debate about it, but I knew I was right. Later that day I simply emailed Barbara and posed the situation to the expert.

Yes, Barbara confirmed that I was right!

There seems to be a growing decline in knowledge about how to behave in public – whether in the business or social arena. Manners and “common courtesy” are sorely lacking, especially among the younger generation. It’s obvious to many (but apparently not the perpetrators) that showing one’s underwear in public is distasteful, but what about those other things that are not so obvious?

I read online articles and blogs about how to prepare for a job interview and how to behave during the interview. The tips are so common sense that it makes me wonder, has it come to this that we really have to tell people to take a shower, dress professionally, arrive early, sit up straight, don’t chew gum during the interview and don’t bring your mother to the interview? I have been to job fairs where the organizers have published in their advertisements that attendees come professionally dressed. Yet I saw a girl at the job fair dressed as if she had job experience in the oldest profession.

I’m going to grant my esteemed readers the benefit of the doubt that they know how to dress appropriately for business. However, there are many aspects to business etiquette that differ from social etiquette and you may not be aware of them. Don’t you want to be the best version of you?

You don’t know what you don’t know, but others do. You can be assured that the management at your job knows when you are not acting professionally. Your image on the job, your behavior and your manners all add up to how promotable you are, whether you know it or not.

A friend of mine tells a story about an incident when she began working for her employer. She used to come to work very casually dressed, sometimes in sweatpants. I guess they did not enforce any dress code. One day during her quarterly review her manager asked her where she saw herself in five years. She replied confidently that she would be in a management position. His reply was that if so, she had to start dressing and acting the part. She could not be perceived as serious or capable if she slouched into work in sweats. He mentored her and the rest is history.

No matter how technically trained and highly skilled you are, the key to your success is found in your soft skills, or how and what you communicate along with the image you project. These skills, along with your emotional intelligence, or ability to understand people and react appropriately to them, are what truly determine success in today’s world. Emotional intelligence can be the subject of a future blog, so today let’s think about how you are going to develop your best professional image and presence.

The keys that will set you apart from your competition are being trustworthy and honest, and possessing  the quality of civility – having respect for yourself and others. You need to be able to carry yourself with decorum and good manners in all situations, thereby creating a positive professional image.

You can scour the web for tips on etiquette, but in the meantime I’ll recommend you to my friend Barbara Bergstrom’s book, Don’t Forget Your Keys, soon to be re-published on Amazon as hardcover or Kindle version. That is, as fast as the publisher applies my edits! Even authors may not know what they don’t know about grammar and punctuation, but they know to have their key, a copyeditor.

Make sure you have your keys!

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