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Recent college graduates sometimes need etiquette course



Blunders abound when college graduates are on the search for their first job; it's all part of the learning process. But Sean Taylor Simpson can claim to have heard something hopefully few others have: the whooshing flush of a job applicant's career go down the toilet. Literally.


As corporate communications director of Express Employment Services, Simpson has witnessed his fair share of mishaps and screw-ups when it comes to sifting through potential employees. But on a phone call with the aforementioned Almost New Hire No. 1, he experienced a first-time occurrence.

After discussing the possibility of an interview, a loud flush came ringing into Simpson's ear. Moments later, water running from a faucet prompted him to think of the possible places Almost New Hire No. 1 could be " a public bathroom, perhaps?

The young man on the other end of the line had indeed taken the phone call from inside a restroom " something that completely changed the tone of the conversation.

"With cell phones and wireless headsets, you can be on the phone all the time, but cell phones and restrooms really don't mix very well," Simpson said. "Nobody in the bathroom wants to hear the conversation and the person on the receiving end of the call doesn't need to hear toilets flushing or water running."

Recent college grads entering the business world may be getting wardrobe makeovers and upgrading to a diet that doesn't include ramen noodles, but one of the things that may be on the bottom of the post-graduation to-do list is brushing up on phone etiquette and professionalizing communication methods and skills.

With an estimated 34.5 percent of 23- to 29-year-olds in America living in households with only wireless phones, cell phones are quickly replacing landlines as most college grads' main form of communication, according to CTIA " The Wireless Organization. It's important to remember that once you begin your job search, friends likely won't be the only people trying to reach you; employers calling to inquire about the fresh face with a stunning résumé are hoping to talk to a professional adult looking for his or her first "real" job.

A small refresher course in phone etiquette could be in order. As per the example set by Almost New Hire No. 1, it's clear that the real estate adage "location, location, location" applies to where you take your calls as well.

"That's the joy of caller ID and voice mail: You can return the call when you're not taking care of environmental needs," Simpson said.

A more amusing, slightly less horrifying experience with a recent graduate left Simpson less than impressed. Almost New Hire No. 2 didn't answer her phone in a public restroom; in fact, she didn't answer it at all. But her voice mail message told Simpson all that he really needed to know.

"Her message sounded like she was at a rave somewhere " just music blasting," he said. "Then she came in and said something like, 'Hi, I'm either at a party or recovering from a party, so leave a message and I'll call you after noon.' I told everybody in the office. It was really funny, but it was not the most professional voice mail message out there."

The lesson learned from Almost New Hire No. 2? Make sure that once résumés are polished to send out to employers, your outgoing message gets a makeover, too. Keep it short and simple; leave a name so that callers know they reached the right person and a "thank you for calling." Anything else, Simpson said, could only frustrate the caller.

When it comes to online social networks like Facebook or MySpace, it seems like these pages can only harm your chances of getting hired if an employer visits these sites. If the thought of your future boss sifting through Internet pictures of you in a less-than-respectable state makes you cringe, clear those photos off your page.

Once all embarrassing, blackmail-potential content has been wiped away, use the page to promote your good qualities. Take advantage of the limitless space on the World Wide Web. So often, people only perceive Facebook and MySpace as having a negative impact on your image that they forget that it can be used to highlight your attributes.

"Your best foot forward can be a virtual foot," Simpson said. "You can turn your Facebook profile or your personal blog into a virtual job interview, complete with links to your portfolio of work. Technology gives you the opportunity to make a first impression that is more provoking than 20-pound résumé paper or a PDF file."

Ultimately, the goal of revamping your voice mail and preparing to handle calls from potential bosses is to land an interview.

"The goal of a résumé and cover letter is to get an interview," Simpson said. "To do that requires you to stand out from the competition."

Once all of those skills have been honed and you have landed the job, a few office-friendly tips from U.S. Cellular are worth consideration.

Text messaging has become a trend that transcends even the campus life and business world barrier, so it would be wise to review your texting habits. U.S. Cellular suggests double-checking the recipient of every text message sent out, lest you accidentally send the message meant for your best friend to your boss. Implementing the use of proper English for business texts is also a smart choice; a colleague might not exactly be ROTFL if he can't understand what you just wrote him.

As for office etiquette, keeping your phone on silent or vibrate mode will be greatly appreciated by those around you.

Determined not to become Almost New Hire No. 3, recent University of Oklahoma graduate Chris White is preparing to nab his dream job after earning a degree in public relations.

"It's your first job out of college and you want to make the best impression that you can," White said. "Your purpose has changed from entertaining your friends to planning your future. It's like the college days are over."

But with a former voice mail message like "My name is Chris White and I breathe fire for breakfast," he couldn't just let the corporate business world take over every aspect of his life.

Like many students, White doesn't want the seriousness of formal adulthood to make him void of any personality, so he's making an effort to maintain his youthful charisma. Although he said he realizes his "social life might not be the thriving entity that it once was," he plans to keep the stereotypical stuffiness of the business world out of his personal life.

"The trick is keeping up with what's current," he said. "If you still maintain that a little bit, staying in tune with the (local community), it would be a great way for someone to hold on to that chunk of youth as you are progressing the business world." "Reneé Selanders

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