Just Plain Business Sense


I think I missed a step in life. Maybe I slept through this seminar or just nodded when my academic advisor told me. Maybe I was too busy rolling in the free-spirited grass of liberal arts curriculum to lift my head up and smell the copy toner. Somewhere in the past near 26 years, I missed the How to Behave in Business class.

Business is tricky. I’d worked in an “office” before, as an intern at Gawker. That was my general idea of an office environment. Much to my disappointment, what the rest of the world sees as an “office” and what I saw as an “office” were apples and oranges. Whiskey and PBR. High-and-tights and dreads. Luckily for me, I had the Office Behavior Sparknotes (also known as my dad, who worked in business for 30+ years). That, combined with a few crash courses and some very careful observation have taught me the core, most important skills that every WOMAN should know for surviving in business.

While these tips are good for men, I have found that men are given far better business training than girls from life and the world–school, media, etc. So I’m going to share all I know for you, ladies. Make me proud.

1. Shake that Goddamn Hand
A handshake is often your first impression of someone. A strong, firm handshake leaves a good impression. Ignore the dainty hand, the floppy fish hand, or the cold sausage hand. Take the hand offered, grip it firmly, shake once, and let go. Keep eye contact the entire time.

2. Go a Step Above Dress Code
Always dress slightly nicer than what the rules state. Mr. Not the It Girl Dad always told me, “Everything in life is 50% style and 50% substance.” You can be the smartest, wittiest, brightest girl in the room but if you look like you don’t give a hoot, no one will give a hoot about you. It’s the best advice I ever received. Actually, that’s not true. It’s a close second to, “Don’t stick your finger in the electrical socket.”

3. Be Formal, Be Polite
When in doubt, err on the side of etiquette and politeness. If you work with someone named Douglas, don’t call him Doug unless told otherwise. Always say thank you. Always say please.

4. Listen to Your Boss
It’s easy when you’re a young, free-spirited, rolling-in-fields-of-wildflowers twenty-something to think that you’re invincible. You’re not. If your supervisor has a recommendation or suggestion, take it. You are never too good to learn something. Our generation has frequently been identified as having the hubris to expect things to be handed to us. (By the way, the majority of us don’t think like that.) Just in case you need a reminder, here’s this little gem from Mark Twain:

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

5. Work Your Ass Off

I learn more every day. Friday, I learned how to roll up the sleeves on my Oxford military-style shirt so they wouldn’t be uneven. But I’ll save that lesson for another day.

See you at the water cooler, ladies.

You can contact Sarah, the author of this post, at sarah@nottheitgirls.com.

2 thoughts on “Just Plain Business Sense

  1. YES to the handshake! My dad trained me to have a firm handshake from a very young age, and now I find myself automatically disrespecting people (women AND men) that give you the limp fish.

  2. YES to all, and most emphatically to dressing well. I’m always shocked when people see business casual as an excuse to look dumpy. It tells people you will slack off when given lax rules. Also, do you know how many people I have befriended through complimenting each others’ style? It’s the easiest way to network!

    Also, why do so many people think they know better than their bosses and try to prove it? You answer to that person. They will like you and give you good reviews if you make them feel like you respect them.

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