Young Professionals

7 Tips To Help Young Professionals Fit In


Ah, youth! I remember my own youth, back before the invention of electricity. As fun as youth is, however, there are some things the old bulls have to teach when it comes to looking for a job. Here are a few tips for young professionals:

1. Dress Well

Even if the company is “business casual” or (heaven help us) “business grubby,” you can’t be that way. You can’t wear the uniform until you’re part of the team.

The best rule of thumb is to dress at least one step above whatever everyone else is wearing, and to wear a suit (this means with a tie, guys) if anyone at the company wears a suit. Don’t just do in with a shirt and tie. Wear the jacket, too. Look professional.

2. Shave

Either grow a beard or go clean shaven. Don’t go with the “two day stubble” beards Ben Affleck wore in The Town. Basically, anything Ben Affleck does, you shouldn’t do. (After all, you’re probably a better actor than he is.)

3. Don’t Text

Younger generations love to text. I’ve seen two people sitting next to one another texting instead of talking — to each other. Texting while on an interview or during the time you’re at the company for an interview is a real no-no. Turn off the fun little Android or iPhone for a couple of hours. Yes, you will live, believe it or not.

Generally speaking, texting at work should be kept to an absolute minimum. Texting while driving is incredibly stupid, illegal, and can get someone killed. Texting while at meals with another person (especially from work) is incredibly rude.

The phone/computer should be turned off during any business meetings (except for company business), any business lunches, or anytime you are supposed to be interacting with real-world people. Yes, I know you think you can multi-task. It is still rude and, in driving, very dangerous.

4. Realize Work Must Be Produced

I know school told you you’re really cute and valued you for “just being you,” but now you’re at the grown-ups table, and we don’t value you for just being you. We value you for the work you produce, not just for existing. This means you have to actually do something during the work day to get paid and get ahead.

Some of you work very hard, and some of you don’t.  This is to the ones who don’t. Unemployment is not fun. Neither is living with your parents until you’re 40.

5. Be Respectful

You’re not dealing with someone who is a social equal. When you’re interviewing for a job, or working on a job, you’re dealing with someone who is your boss. Even if you have a friendship with him or her outside of the office, while you’re at the office you need to treat this person with the utmost of respect. This means not interrupting, no snide remarks, and doing the tasks you are assigned on time and within budget. If you cannot be respectful to your boss, you probably will eventually be looking for another job.

6. Understand Life And Work Are Not Fair

You may think it would be fair for you to get highly applauded and given time off because you worked 80 hours this week. Yeah.

Life isn’t fair and neither is work. Learn it. Live it. Know it. Breathe it. If you get a “good job” for a job well done, you’re lucky. If you get a “thank you,” you’re even luckier. If your boss gives you time off to go snowboarding or jump out of a perfectly good airplane, or whatever, you’re very, very lucky.

Probably what will happen is you’ll get a nod, and everyone will get back to work. Your accomplishments won’t be celebrated. You aren’t going to get a parade. Live with it. The rest of us have been living with it all of our lives.

7. Remember Your Manners

Behave yourself and remember your manners. A belch at dinner is not funny anymore. Shoving your way into an elevator before everyone is out is not acceptable. And so on. If you don’t know manners, buy one of the many great business etiquette books on the market.

These tips will help you fit into the new world of work you’re entering. While you will still have a great deal to learn, you can learn it without putting your foot in places it has no business being.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

John Heckers

John Heckers is president of Heckers Development Group, LTD, a consulting firm based in Denver, Colorado, specializing in Strategic Executive Coaching.


  1. One of the worst things is when your own boss doesn’t behave accordingly and at the very worst is unprofessional, unethical or inconsiderate even if you try your best and behave with best intentions towards positive side. How does one deal with this and effectively do something even when the boss won’t change or doesn’t want to and the very worst expects others to? Seriously, when all is advised it would be good if bosses, other colleagues, clients and even subordinates act well too.

  2. Not very helpful. Most tips are fairly common sense. They have been written with the stereotypical ‘irresponsible youth’ in mind and tell us nothing that any decent young professional wouldn’t know. Insider tips about how to navigate the corporate worl culture would have been more helpful.

    • I agree Kumar on this. Although, this article had a few good points, it was overshadowed by young professional stereotypes posed as “humor”. In a good number of cases young professionals have completed summer internships and co-ops. This has provided insight on how the corporate world functions. If the article address information about creating a career development plan, learning from teammates and navigating the corporation would have made this article more helpful.

  3. John,

    Having new grads and entry level workers understand these tips is very important, especially since being socially-aware is definitely something they don’t teach you in school. My only suggestion would be to add some positive examples of how the workforce is different than school and how kids can leverage the knowledge you provide as a competitive advantage. Otherwise, this article may just scare them. Thanks for caring about the younger generation!

    To your career success!

    Josephine “Jos” Hanan 

  4. These are great tips. I’ll add one more — “Hey” is not an acceptable greeting in a business setting, especially with with customers. I’ve seen it in email and I’ve heard it in conversation. It’s fine among peers in social context, but it is never an acceptable salutation to begin a business email or in conversation with a new contact.

  5. It’s amazingly sad how many young adults really need these reminders. I feel like an old fogey, but I have to say it, “kids these days!” However, to give some credit to their generation, my teenage son and his friends would have known a lot of these rules. Whether they would have the focus to follow them in an interview is another story. That’s where the coaching really comes into play. Having someone to reinforce the obvious is crucial! Thank you for coming up with this great list!

  6. Such great tips, John!

    I think a lot of new professionals didn’t get the kind of coaching from their parents and teachers that the older generations did. It’s a shame because many recent grads enter the workforce unaware of the things you outline above, only to get humiliated by co-workers. Nobody likes to make mistakes when they didn’t know any better. I hope readers send this post to anyone they know under the age of 24. New professionals deserve to know these tips so they can save face and earn the respect they want and deserve as a new professional.

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