10 Things You Need To Know This Summer

Mary Crane (www.marycrane.com) who conducts our 1L Etiquette Dinners, recently posted these useful tips. From her April 23, 2014 enewsletter:

The most successful summer associates, interns and new hires enter the workforce with strong technical skills. However, employers consistently report that soft skills—social graces, communication skills, positive personal habits, friendliness and optimism—often determine whether summer hires succeed.

I’ve culled my notes, collected over a decade of working with young people, and have identified the questions they’ve most frequently asked. Make sure you know the following before you start work:

1. If I receive more than one invitation to a specific meal—first thing Monday morning, several partners send emails inviting me to lunch—which invitation do I accept?

Respond to invitations in the order in which you receive them. So, if a junior partner asks you to lunch at 8:30 a.m., you should respond immediately indicating your availability. Please do not wait for a better offer. Should a practice group leader extend an invitation two hours later, you should respond, “I’ve already committed to meet with (junior partner’s name) over lunch today. Do you have availability later this week?”

2. Who pays for meals?

Whoever extends an invitation to a meal assumes the roll of host or hostess. He or she is responsible for the cost of his or her meal as well as the meals of all guests. So, when the head of finance invites you to lunch, you can assume she’ll pick up the tab.

When an intern or summer associate invites a senior member of the organization out to lunch—not a bad idea. It’s one way you can take charge of building your network—the summer hire assumes the role of host and thereby is responsible for the cost of the senior employee’s meal. If the senior employee insists on paying, the summer hire may acquiesce. In such a case, however, it’s incumbent upon the summer hire to send a handwritten thank-you note.

When a group of six summer interns decides to visit the local tacqueria, each person is responsible for 1/6th of the total bill. This remains true even when one guest consumes a single quesadilla and one margarita while the remainder of the table chows down on nachos, jumbo burritos and pitchers of beer.

3. At a restaurant, how many courses should I order?

Mirror your host or hostess. If he orders an appetizer and an entrée, you should do the same. If your host orders an entrée only, again you should do the same, even when you feel half-starved.

When the waitstaff requests your order before addressing the host or hostess, order an appetizer and an entrée. Should your host or hostess order a single course, you can always ask waitstaff to adjust your order.

4. What if I don’t like certain foods?

First, if you must avoid certain foods for religious or health reasons, by all means make members of the organization’s recruiting and human resources team as well as restaurant waitstaff aware of this fact. Assume everyone wishes to respect your religious preferences and know that no one wishes to make you ill.

However, if you have a “quirky” food preference—once I encountered a summer associate who announced, “I don’t eat green foods”—keep these to yourself. Avoid looking like a particularly “needy” summer hire.

5. Do I say “thank you” every time the waitstaff approaches the table? And do I need to send a thank-you note to every person who takes me out to lunch? 

Treat restaurant waitstaff respectfully. There’s no requirement that you thank them each time they refill your water glass, but why wouldn’t you want to position yourself as an extremely polite young professional?

Following a meal to which you were invited by a more senior member of the organization, at a minimum, do send an email—not a text—thanking them for the meal and describing one thing about it that made it memorable. (“I really enjoyed learning more about the Mergers & Acquisitions practice group.” “I appreciated your description of long-term growth opportunities in finance.”)

If you are invited to a meal hosted at someone’s home, take a small hostess gift (a bottle of wine, a small flower arrangement). Following the event, send a handwritten thank-you note to the host’s home address.

6. When do I use the social titles of “Mr.” and “Ms.”?

Among your US work colleagues, most will operate on a first name basis. (The same will not necessarily be true among international colleagues.) Immediately use a person’s first name when you meet someone who you believe to be the age of your parents or younger. With more senior members of an organization, organizational leaders or someone from another country, err on the side of formality and use a social title until you are invited to address that person by his or her first name.

As soon as someone asks you to use his or her first name, by all means do.

When you are asked to communicate with a client or customer, don’t hesitate to ask your supervisor how she would like you to address that person. And for heaven’s sake, when using a social title, make sure you know the gender of the recipient. No one should ever begin an email: Dear Mr. or Ms. Pat McNeill.

7. When I have an assignment to complete and a social event to attend, which takes priority?

Obviously, you need to produce quality work on time. Complete every assignment by its due date, and turn in assignments that are client ready, i.e., they have been carefully proofed and are free of stray markings.

Having said this, never underestimate the importance of the social events to which you will be invited. These are important opportunities for you to bond with other professionals in the organization. In part your long-term success will be dependent upon the relationships you build with these coworkers and colleagues.

A special word for introverts: I’m one of you. I acquire energy in solitude and know how overwhelming social events can be. Please do not use the excuse of an impending assignment due date to avoid events. Commit to attending everything to which you are invited with some identified goals in mind, for example, meet three new people. Pursue those goals, and then you can return to work.

8. Hose or no hose?

It depends. Observe the most successful women professionals in your organization and follow their lead. If they wear hosiery for courtroom appearances or major client presentations, you should do the same.

And gentlemen, with rare exception, you should not even contemplate entering a professional workplace without socks.

9. My Mom and/or Dad asked to review an assignment before I turned it in. Should I let them?

If you have a “helicopter parent”—one who continues to hover over you—place a ground stop on them immediately. Nothing will harm your credibility more than a parent who interjects himself or herself into your work, appears at your office, or communicates with your employer.

10. I have some special need. Do I disclose it or not?

Over the years, I’ve discovered that many new professionals have unique concerns. I encountered one summer associate who stuttered, and the first letter of her last name impeded her speech. I’ve met lots of new professionals who develop a flushed face or neck when called upon to speak publicly. I even encountered one young man who suffered from narcolepsy.

Here’s what I recommend:

First, understand that everyone has some unique challenge with which we must contend. Many of us consider “it” to be the worst thing in the world. However, in general, the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Put your fears to rest.

Second, take control of the situation. I encouraged the summer associate who stuttered to disclose this to her work colleagues by saying, “Certain consonants cause me to stutter. Please bear with me.” Similarly, I urged the gentleman with a sleep disorder to disclose, “I have a sleep disorder and am working to treat it with medication. I can assure you it won’t affect the quality of my work.”