Professionalism

When going through the job or internship search, it is always important to present yourself as someone ready for employment and the responsibilities that go with it. Whether your future opportunity involves working with children, clients, patients, or coworkers, your employer will be looking for someone who can interact with others in a professional manner. This means being polite, engaged, and respectful of everyone you interact with.

A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in the shoes of the employer and imagine what they would expect of your behavior. In general, a lot of the advice below is about honoring your commitments, being respectful of people and their time, and acknowledging that a work environment is likely to be more formal than your student life.

Event RSVP/Registration:

  • When you sign up for an event, the expectation from the employer/organizer is that you are planning to attend. It is not just an “interested” designation like on Facebook. They will order food and make other arrangements based on your registration.
    • Only register if you are confident you will be able to attend.
    • Cancel your registration if you are no longer able to attend.
    • If it is too late to cancel, contact the organizer directly (email is fine) if there is an emergency that prevents you from attending.
    • If you register for an employer event (like an information session) in Crimson Careers, the employer will have your name and information. “Ghosting” the event (not showing up without any explanation) could hurt your chances for an opportunity with that organization.

In Person:

  • Dress professionally - see the OCS Dress for Success webpage for more details and examples of both business casual (for networking and career fairs) and corporate attire (for most interviews).
  • Be on time, which means you should plan to be 10-15 minutes early to be safe.
  • Have a firm handshake when you meet or greet someone and make eye contact when you’re speaking with them.
  • Be able to briefly tell someone about yourself. Students often start with what they study and what they’re interested in. This is sometimes referred to as the “elevator pitch,” but is briefer in a networking event than in an interview.
  • Be curious and ask questions.
  • Send thank-you emails following in-person interactions.

By Email:

  • Use your Harvard email – it verifies that you are a Harvard student. If you are forwarding to another email, make sure you periodically check your promotions tab or other places an email may get stuck.
  • Check your email regularly when you are on the job or internship search. Recently students have overlooked offers for employment or summer funding because they weren’t checking their email carefully.
  • Reply to email the same day it was received whenever possible.
  • Make sure your emails are businesslike with proper grammar and punctuation.
    • Do not begin an email with “Hey.” Use “Dear” or “Hello” as your greeting.
    • If you cut and paste from another email or document, be sure that all your text is in the same font and size.
    • Revise your email signature to something appropriate for correspondence with employers and alumni.

Example student signature:
Ifeoluwa T. Obayan
Harvard College Class of 2019
A.B. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering and Social Anthropology
Vice President, Harvard College Nigerian Students Association

By Phone:

  • Set up your voicemail, and make sure your outgoing voicemail message and ring back tones are straight-forward and professional.
  • Check your voicemail regularly so an employer never gets a message that your mailbox is full.
  • Reply to voicemail the same day it was received whenever possible.
  • Remember to return voicemails with a phone call – take the cue from the employer as to how they want to communicate with you. If you can’t reach the employer by phone, leave a message and then follow up by email to schedule a conversation.

Online:

  • What would happen if a recruiter Googled you? Edit what you have on Facebook and other social networking sites and update your security settings.
  • Be proactive about your online presence by setting up a professional LinkedIn account.