Wake Up Gen Y

A recent experience shocked my friend and I but inspired the following blog post about how the basic business manners of the Millenial generation, especially in the web 2.0 age. I hope this will 1) inspire those already doing it to keep doing it and 2) inspire those that aren’t to please start. Business manners go a long way.

A highly respected and accomplished professional — and close friend — from Singapore had a planned Skype encounter with a new graduate interested in working overseas. Below is her response to his poor communication performance prior, during and post the Skype meeting.

“At least seven basic points happened to arise, and here is what I would advise in response:

1) Do not start emails with “Hey (first name)” to someone you do not know, particularly someone from whom you are seeking advice or a job.  It sounds too casual and borders on disrespectful.

2) If you are giving out a phone number to potential mentors, advice-givers, employers, etc., make sure that number has a professional-sounding voicemail recording that answers when you are unavailable.  The recording should be made in a clear voice and mention your name.  A potential employer will not be impressed with a careless, sleepy-sounding, “Yo, leave a message.”  And the caller will also not be sure whether s/he has even called the right number in the first place, further confusing matters.

3) If you have set a time to have a phone or Skype conversation, put it in your calendar and respect it.  This includes contacting the other person ahead of time if you cannot keep the appointment.  Rescheduling is fine; standing someone up or being really late is not.  Especially, again, if that other person might be someone who could find you a job.

4) If you are indeed late for a call, please apologize, or at least recognize that the other person has been waiting for you.  Saying nothing and pretending like you are on time does not give a good impression of your character.

5) Have a plan.  Most likely the person at the other end of the line is not going to simply say, “Hello dude-I’ve-never-spoken-to, I have a job for you, you’re hired, done.”  The person needs to learn more about you first.  Put yourself in his/her shoes.  Think about how you would like to present yourself and what you want to get out of the conversation, and do not treat it as a mechanical transaction.  Consider beforehand: What questions should you ask?  What points should you make?  Show some interest in the discussion, and what both you and the other person may be able to offer.

6) Be humble, respectful and engaging.  This does not mean you have to grovel or play down your skills.  Far from it.  But keep your tone of voice modest; leave the arrogance out of it.  Don’t multi-task when you’re in conversation — stay off the Facebook or email — the other person can tell when you’re distracted and that is a big turnoff.  Why should anyone help you when you are not even focused on helping yourself?  You are not automatically entitled to anything.

7) Say thank you.  The person from whom you are seeking advice or a job has spent time and effort on you (even in this case, despite your every effort to turn the person off!), and a basic recognition of that is essential.

Basic manners apply.  And you can actually make yourself stand out by having extra-good manners via email or mobile phone.  That always leaves a really positive impression. And — relevantly — any number of the above becomes even more important if you are seeking jobs internationally, as respect for and sensitivity to different cultures is paramount. Hopefully these tips can help somebody.”