The Importance of Politeness

In my quiet time, I worry about odd things, and one of those is that the English language may lose three important words due to lack of use. Unfortunately, these are words that we all know, and could, and should, use them every day; but somehow we’ve stopped. Those words? “Please” and “you’re welcome.” (Okay – one of those words is really two words, but give me some literary license, please.

Let’s take these on one at a time. I’ll bet that when you were a toddler, your parents told you multiple times every day to say please and thank you. Somewhere around the teenage years you probably started dropping the please – and maybe the thank you. As I interact with business professionals all day, many of them make requests of me. They ask for information, for assistance, to be hired for a job, etc. I could probably count on one hand the number of times someone included “please” in that request so far this month. While please may still be common for toddlers, it seems to be slipping from the business vernacular.

As a side-note, “thank you” is not endangered – at least not from usage. I hear “thank you” and “thanks” all day long. Granted, some of them are perfunctory or insincere, but the word lives on. I am concerned that all too often its use is insincere. What bothers me most is when someone writes or types “Thx.” Really? You want to show your appreciation, but you don’t have enough time to use three more letters? And how about saying the full “thank you” once in a while? Wouldn’t that be nice to hear?

The first word/phrase I think we might lose is “you’re welcome.” I rarely hear this anymore. Instead I hear no problem, okay, no biggie, any time, and other phrases that suggest that whatever I did for you was insignificant and not worthy of being thanked. In my mind that is plain rude. If someone is going to tell you they appreciate what you’ve done for them – presuming that appreciation is sincere – then the least you can do is acknowledge the receipt of that appreciation by saying “you’re welcome.”

So, the purpose of this manners rant? I wrote a post a while back about the importance of making a good first impression. You can enhance and sustain that impression by being polite. When you ask for an interview, say please. When you get that interview, say thank you. When the interviewer says, “Thanks for coming in today,” say, “You’re welcome, and thank you for the opportunity.”

Incorporating all three words/phrases into your everyday conversations will not only improve the quality of your relationships, you’ll also be saving these words from extinction. Thank you.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

Back to Basics

Earlier I mentioned a symposium I attended on helping homeless Veterans find jobs and some of the job seeking advice I heard there. There was one more bit of advice that’s been running around in the back of my head – do I blog about this or not? I decided the answer is yes. There’s nothing earth shattering here but it can’t hurt to get this kind of advice periodically during your job search.

Here are 15 basic tips that you need to aware of when you go to an interview or a networking meeting. Again, I hope there are no surprises here, but if there are, at least someone told you.  These are not in priority order, you need to do them all.

  1. Be on time. Before the interview know where you are going, how to get there, where you will park, etc. Plan to arrive 10 minutes (or so) early. Sit in your car and relax if you’re too early. Use the power building suggestions from by Body Language post while you wait.
  2. Be clean. I shouldn’t need to explain this.
  3. Smell good. This really should be “don’t smell.” Too much cologne or perfume is sometimes worse than none at all. I suggest you be a neutral as possible.
  4. Dress appropriately. I suggest you dress one step above what that office’s every-day work attire is. Guys – a business suit is not required or appropriate for all occasions. If they wear ties, you wear the suit. If they are business casual, you still wear the suit. If they are in jeans you wear dress pants and a dress shirt – tie is optional. If they are in shorts and filp-flops then you’re in business casual. Never less than business casual. Rarely more than business suit. If you don’t know what they wear, call the company and ask the receptionist. You don’t have to tell her your name J. Ladies – sorry but you’ll have to take your dress cues from my advice for guys. I’m not qualified to translate.
  5. Bring copies of your resume. I suggest between 2 and 5 copies. It depends on how many people you expect to meet.
  6. Bring something to take notes on. Not your hand or a pack of post-its. Don’t forget the pen.
  7. Remember your body language – smile, look people in the eye, offer a firm handshake.
  8. Speak clearly. Talk slowly, clearly. Use full sentences. Answer the question that is asked, nothing else. Don’t ramble.
  9. Remember your manners. Say please and thank you. I think you can use “sir” and “ma’am” but be careful. I may get some backlash on this, but some women take offense to ma’am because they say it makes them feel/sound old. I grew up with parents from the South and sir and ma’am are just part of who I am – no offense intended.
  10. Be patient. Take time to consider the question you’ve been asked before answering.
  11. No lying. Enough said.
  12. Ask questions. Be prepared to ask several questions (even if you already know the answers). You can ask about the company history, the strategic plan, their products, whatever – but show an interest in the organization.
  13. Ask when you can follow up. Even if they tell you when they plan to get back to you, ask when you can check back with them. Be proactive.
  14. Relax. This is a job interview. You are not being investigated for murder. The worse thing that can happen is that you don’t get this job. That’s okay – there will be others.
  15. Be yourself. Let them know all the ways you can make their organization better.

There you go – fifteen simple things to remember. Have a great interview!

Ten Words That Will Power Your Job Search

What if I told you that with just ten words you can dramatically alter the success of your job search? Would you believe me? It’s true! These may be my ten favorite words in the whole world. Some are okay all on their own, while others work best in groups. Is your curiosity piqued?

Here we go …

The first three are Please and Thank You. Your mother told you about these when you were about 3 years old, but I am continually astounded at how they’ve been forgotten. It is much more common today to ask for something, without saying please and almost as rare not to heat thank you.

The next three are You Are Welcome. I think soon literary researchers are going to have to comb the archives to find uses of you’re welcome. What passes for “you’re welcome” is likely to be “sure”, “no problem”, “no biggie”, or nothing at all. This one pains me the most. When someone takes the time to show their appreciation for your help, don’t minimize their appreciation with a grunt or “sure”. Say it – “You are welcome.” That way they know that you heard and accepted their gratitude. You closed the loop – you helped them – they thanked you – and you acknowledged that thanks.

Finally, the big four of job search – Can You Help Me?   These four words will open doors like no other phrase. People are inherently good and will help – IF YOU ASK. If you don’t ask, they don’t know you need help and they have other things to do. If you speak those four words people will stop, look you in the eye and say “sure, what do you need.” Stick a “please” in there and wow, what a powerful combination. Follow that with a thank you and you have seven of ten – that’s one powerful exchange.

To borrow a line from Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.” That is the essence of networking – politely asking strangers for help, getting that help, and saying thank you. Then when someone thanks you, telling them they are welcome.

Try using these 10 words multiple times throughout the day, and see how much more effective your job search can become.