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Career Coach: Tips for handling happy hour meeting

By Joyce E. A. Russell,

Last week, I took questions online about workplace etiquette and the hunt for jobs. Here’s some excerpts:

Work Happy Hour

Q.The head of our organization arranged a happy hour after work one day with several members of our staff — it was part meet-and-greet, part business strategy meeting. I was curious if there are etiquette rules for this situation in terms of what you should order to drink and how much. Logic obviously says you shouldn’t drink yourself under the table — or on top of the bar — but are the “rules” more nuanced than that?

A. Good question and one that many ought to ask (and don’t!). I agree with you that when you have these types of events you have to be sociable, yet maintain a level of professionalism. Whoever organizes these events needs to be sensitive to the fact that people who attend may drink too much, not at all or be under age! I think the leader needs to set the tone for appropriate professional behavior. For people who are of age and do drink — most might expect that you only order one drink unless the event is a very long one. The key is to do what enables you to stay professional. I have known many people who attend such events and don’t order anything, and this is actually perfectly acceptable as well.

Phone interviews

Q.Any tips on phone interview etiquette so as to make a strong, positive impression?

A. First, make sure to treat phone interviews just like a face-to-face interviews. Too many times, people treat them in a very informal manner and this comes across as unprofessional to recruiters. Make sure to take a deep breath before starting to get calm and have a pleasant voice tone. Speak clearly and concisely — don’t ramble or take too long to answer a question. Practice with a friend or tape yourself and see how you sound on the phone. Make sure you have a clear, strong voice tone that sounds positive and confident. It is amazing how many people mumble on the phone and really don’t know they do this. Be friendly and polite, especially to gatekeepers who may direct your calls to HR personnel. Be personable — ask their name and learn something about them. Then, refer to them by name during the conversation.

Making a career change ...

Q.I can’t seem to find my niche and I am not happy at all with where my career is headed. I was laid off in October, but have been extended multiple times which on the surface is great (still getting paid), but my happiness is at an all-time low because I am not working toward anything other then getting out. I have been brainstorming a career change, and want to give a health care career a shot, but I just don’t know how to narrow in on what it is I want to do. Throw in the cost of changing careers with a young family and I just feel stuck in a rut.

A. To get out of this rut, you need to devote some time each week to exploring new opportunities. I know this can seem like a daunting task. But, if you develop a plan with a timeline, it can actually work. First, start by getting someone to review your resume to make sure it is up to date. Then, pick up a career book such as “What Color Is Your Parachute” (by Richard Bolles) or “Mojo” (by Marshall Goldsmith). The goal is to start thinking about what you enjoy doing. You want to spend some time each week reading or exploring new ideas. Talk to your friends to let them know you are open to new possibilities. Join a professional association to start attending networking events. Create a plan for yourself where you might give yourself a set amount of time (several months) to just talk to people about what they do (that you think you might be interested in), followed by more active searching. Too often, when we feel stuck in a job, we don’t take any action. This makes us feel even more stuck. So, start small — and devote a little time each day or week towards learning more about other careers that you might be interested in.

Another comment about salary

Q.Joyce, you mentioned in a post last month about not giving compensation details until after an offer is made ... that’s a complete waste of time on both the companies’ and the candidates’ part. I also have the responsibility of hiring and negotiating salary, but if we can only pay “X” amount, and I have a candidate who wants “X+Y” amount, it’s not going to happen and makes it look like we can’t produce the person. Again a waste of time. I also expect someone to answer me when I ask the dreaded salary question.

A. Thanks for sharing your views. It is always great to hear from both the applicant’s and employer’s sides on this issue. My view about waiting to negotiate compensation until after an offer is made is based on what is best for the applicant, not the employer.

I do agree with your concern about a waste of time — if that is the case, then why can’t the employer just offer the salary first and then see what the applicant does? If it is important for the employer to not waste time, then the employer should offer the salary number first, and not even bother asking the applicant about his/her previous salary.

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