Transition to Work

The workplace is constantly changing. There are, however, best practices and office culture etiquette that is consistent and relevant no matter where you work. 


When greeting someone new in the workplace, remember to: 

  • Smile  
  • Make eye contact 
  • Use first and last names when making introductions   
  • Remember names! 
  • Show genuine interest and ask questions, it may help to learn something unique about the person 

 When leaving a conversation, exit gracefully and thank the person for their time. Some version of:

“Well, nice chatting with you, I have to get back to it. Look forward to ____ next week!”

When you meet someone for the first time, or are introduced in a social or meeting setting, it may be appropriate to offer a handshake, if you feel comfortable. Always grip firmly- not so tight that you break the other person’s hand, one subtle shake and release.  It shows confidence and a sense of leadership.  If you do not feel comfortable shaking hands, come up with an alternative beforehand.  For example, some people choose to fist bump instead.  If you are wearing a name tag, always wear it on the right side of your chest because when you go to shake someone’s hand, it will be easier for them to read.   


Things you should know about professional email: 

  • Your email account is company property. 
  • Your email account is not private and may be monitored by your employer.  If you work for a public institution, it is also public record that can be requested for viewing.
  • Do not say anything via email you wouldn’t say face-to-face. 
    • Ask yourself “would I be ok with this content appearing on the front page of the news?” and “Does this message contain any sensitive information?” 
  • Respond promptly.  
    • A common response time is 24-48 hours. 
    • Make sure to set boundaries for yourself; should you respond after work hours or wait until the next business day? You create a working reputation when you’re new on the job. If you start off working outside of business hours, others may come to expect that of you over time. Most email clients offer a “send later” option, where you can compose a reply and schedule it to send start of business the next day (or later).
  • Know when to pick up the phone. 
    • If the issue cannot be resolved in 2-3 emails, pick up the phone and talk to the person, then follow up via email. Also avoid delivering bad news via email. 
  • Keep it brief. It’s appropriate to exchange pleasantries with new contacts by start emails with “Hope you’re doing well.” or similar. For close contacts, you can sometimes skip the pleasantries and get straight to the point. Even in brevity, always be polite.
    • Always answer the phone professionally.
      • “Hello, this is name at company name.  How may I help you?” 
    • Set up your voicemail and check often. 
    • When leaving a message, provide all relevant info: 
      • Name 
      • Time of call 
      • Your phone number 
      • Reason for call 
      • Restate name and number 
      • Note: If you prefer not to leave a voicemail, you can choose to send a follow-up email INSTEAD of a voicemail after you call.
    • Don’t bombard others with multiple calls/emails. 
    • Their timetable for responding may NOT be the same as yours. 
    • Ask someone before putting them on speakerphone.
    Social Media

    It is important to think twice before sharing content on your personal and professional social media.  If you think it could be interpreted as inappropriate, it is probably best not to post it at all. 

    Be careful when… 

    • Discussing your new job 
    • Discussing your clients/business 
    • Connecting on social media (outside of LinkedIn) with co-workers or supervisors 
    • Know your company’s social media policies 
    Meeting Etiquette
    • Arrive on time, ideally a few minutes early to get yourself settled. 
    • Be alert and engaged. 
    • Take notes during the meeting to keep your attention and refer to later.
    • Be prepared in advance.
    • Outline clear responsibilities and action items at the end of the conversation. 
    • Stay focused on agenda items.
    • Be respectful of meeting start/end times.
    Working Remotely

    Some organizations have had remote options for years, while others have more recently introducted the option since Covid-19.  Here are a few tips to take into consideration when working from home or remotely:

    • Especially when you are new on the job, keep your camera ON during meetings.
    • Continue to dress appropriately for your workplace. You likely won’t require a suit or jacket, but just because you are working from a different location doesn’t mean you should completely forego your usual dress code.
    • Be sure to use an appropriate background if you are on a virtual call, and make sure there is nothing distracting or inappropriate behind you. If there is, add a virtual background. 
    • Sometimes this cannot be avoided, but if possible, do not take calls in the car.  It is not safe and often difficult for others on the call to hear you well.
    • Wear pants! This may seem like common sense, but make sure you wear appropriate clothing on the lower half of your body. You may have to stand up suddenly during a meeting and if you forget to turn your camera off it could be a big problem!
    Workplace Attire

    Different workplaces may have varying requirements for attire so always ask for clarification on expectations.  If you are unsure, it is better to dress up than dress down.  These are the 3 most common categories for attire in the workplace:

    Business Professional 

    • Matching suit (typically navy, black, or gray; pants or knee length skirt) 
    • Matching close-toed dress shoes (with socks or hose) 
    • Conservative dress shirt or blouse (avoid low necklines) 
    • Conservative accessories (nail polish, makeup, neckties) 
    • Pay careful attention to grooming: light on the cologne/perfume 
    • Stay on the conservative side and cover any visible tattoos or piercings 

    Business Casual 

    • Blouse, polo or button-down shirt 
    • Khaki or black pants (no jeans) 
    • Matching, closed-toe dress shoes (with socks or hose) 
    • Conservative accessories (makeup, nail polish, cologne/perfume) 

    Casual/Smart Casual: 

    • Jeans, khakis 
    • Open or closed-toe shoes (no flip flops) 
    • Conservative blouse or collared shirt 
    • Conservative makeup, nail polish, cologne/perfume 

    You can view some visual examples in our Attire Guide and on our Pinterest page.

    Happy Hour

    Getting a drink with co-workers is a great way to build your network, but be careful to… 

    • Exercise self-control and know your limits.
    • Avoid gossip or complaining.
    • Do not pressure others to drink, you may not know their religious or personal beliefs.
    • Remember, you still represent the company when you are hanging out as a group.
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