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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Advice for the class of 2004

Itís that time of year again; millions of graduates are changing their status from full-time student to full-time employee. The graduating class of 2004 has had some advantages, but has also faced some of lifeís harshest realities. Graduates are more equipped today than graduates of years past--they are smart and savvy, yet still remain somewhat naÔve about what lies ahead.

For the last few years Iíve offered a few tips for new gradates in this column, and Iíve always had a favorable response. I heard from parents, grandparents, teachers, and employers; all wrote to say they too, want to see the young adults in their lives succeed. Whether you are a recent graduate or someone venturing out and starting something new, these tips are important and can help you.

Be Careful. Your permanent record, for the rest of your life, begins NOW. Enjoy this clean slate. Embrace this fresh reputation. Think about the kind of person you want to be. Day 1 at Job 1...your new reputation begins. Take care to cultivate one that you can live with for the rest of your working life. Think of your reputation as your little shadow because it will follow you wherever you go.

Be Grateful. No job is beneath you. Parking cars, dog-sitting, scrubbing floors, peddling fast food, pouring coffee, waiting tables. Some very successful people started out doing these kinds of jobs. Some of them still do these jobs. Appreciate the opportunity to work, and do your best regardless of the position.

Be Appropriate. It does matter what people think of you. Maintaining your individuality is great. But a certain amount of conformity and maturity in appearance and behavior is expected in the work place. Youíll be expected to look, act and dress professionally and appropriately. If you are adamant about looking and acting exactly how you want, consider self-employment.

Be Prompt. There is nothing fashionable, cute, sexy or impressive about being late. So be on time for everything. Tardy is tawdry.

Be Willing. Employers notice people who are willing to take on the tough assignments and the boring but necessary assignments, and who are willing stay late, come in early, skip lunch and do whatever is necessary to get the job done well and on time. If you canít be enthusiastic about what you're doing, and arenít willing to do more than what is in your job description, consider getting another job.

Be Still. Work on your listening skills. There is a reason we all have two ears and only one mouth. Use them proportionately.

Be Resilient. Let your mistakes get you down. Then get back up. Itís important to take the time to grieve over, not gloss over, a mistake. Review your actions and how you might do things differently next time. Then move on and be stronger, wiser. You will learn some of your most important lessons from your mistakes, so seize the opportunity to be a student of your own failure.

Be Joyful. Find joy and meaning in what you do. Joy is contagious; let yours Ďinfectí the people you work with and make for a more pleasurable, meaningful work environment.

Be Nice. Take time to acknowledge and really see the people you encounter in all types of jobs throughout your day. Be courteous and caring to everyone, regardless of status or position. Call the store clerk or receptionist by name. Donít know it? Read the name tag or name plate. Ask how her day is. And mean it. Say ďpleaseĒ and ďthank you.Ē Make eye contact. Take the time to make the personal connection. As you mature, you will come to realize that itís not who you know, itís who you are.

Be Moral. Take the high road; stand for honesty and goodness. The term ďBusiness EthicsĒ doesnít have to be an oxymoron.

Be Better. You are a work in progress. Your status quo isnít good enough. Who you are today doesnít have to be who youíve been or who youíll be 10 or 20 years from now. Strive to improve yourself professionally and, more importantly, personally.

Be Patient. It's essential to remember that "patience is a virtue" -- especially as it relates to finding the ideal job, awaiting a promotion pr a pay increase. Like Rome, your career won't be built in a day. Everything takes time, persistence, a game plan, a belief in oneself and the right attitude. Everyone who has ever achieved stardom, a position of power, fame and (yes) fortune -- from actor Jim Carrey to software billionaire Bill Gates to television icon Oprah Winfrey will tell you this. Everyone has a story of struggles, moments of truth and his or her journey. Everyone starts somewhere. Although it may be difficult to understand now, you really will enjoy and appreciate what you have much more if you have to work for it and toward it.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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