Trick or Treat: A Halloween Guide to Professional Etiquette

This blog post has been updated by Will Lewis, Associate Director of Employer Relations & Communications on May 9, 2024 for relevancy, inclusivity, and formatting.

Do you lack confidence in your communication skills? Are you worried about interacting with older, more experienced professionals? Do you find the topic of etiquette……scary?

Never fear. Etiquette and communication is a challenging, hard-to-define concept, and most professionals would probably describe etiquette as something that can take a lifetime to master. However, following some basic guidelines can help you avoid any serious pitfalls. Check out this list of essential “Trick” or “Treat” etiquette tips to help you get started!



A significant portion of etiquette behavior is attributed to one essential skill – communication.


Interacting with other professionals, no matter the environment, requires that you dial up your communication skills. When you are attending class you may often be playing the role of a passive learner, but a professional environment demands that you bring your “A-game” 100 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean you have to be an absolute rock star, but it does mean you have to do a few important things:

  • Use respectful and professional language. Step one of effective professional communication is simply not offending anyone. Be mindful of how your choice of words, sense of humor, and overall demeanor appear to others.
  • Speak up, but don’t hog the spotlight. While meaningful contributions to the team are important, it can be easy to overdo it. If you’re not sure whether it is appropriate to speak up, observe the culture of the group for a while to get a feel for how things are done. When your turn comes, speak confidently and make your point in a succinct way.
  • Listen – actively. The absolute easiest way to navigate professional and networking situations is to focus more on listening than on speaking. Think about it this way – if you show others that you are a good listener, before long they will be coming to you as a sounding board for their ideas!



Communication means more than simply what you say.


As mentioned above, the words you choose are important, as is being an active listener. But there are a number of other ways you communicate without using words at all. For example:

  • Does your grooming and appearance convey a professional mindset?
  • Do you show up, on time, every day?
  • Do you follow through with the things that you say you will do?

All of these behaviors play a role in your perceived professionalism and send an important message that you care about the work that you do and see yourself as an important member of the team.



Every organization has its own etiquette rules, norms, and behaviors.


There is a reason why dozens (probably hundreds) of books have been written on the topic of professional communication and business culture. Every organization has a unique way of doing things that employees must learn when they join the group. In some companies, 90 percent of communication takes place via email. In other places, face-to-face meetings are preferred. These norms will depend upon a number of factors, including the nature of the organization, its mission, the approach of the management team, and the layout of the building.

You should take comfort in the fact that no one – not even the CEO – was born in that culture and they all had to learn the ropes the same way that you do. For that reason, many experienced employees are very willing to help you and answer your questions. And don’t forget, you can learn a lot simply by observing the behavior of others and putting in some extra attention-to-detail when you start a new position!

Seeking some next steps to expand your professional skills? Check out the UGA Career Center’s calendar of events to see upcoming programs on this topic.

In addition, don’t forget that you have the chance to hone your etiquette skills every day as a student through all of the interactions you have with professors, employers, student organization leaders, and other members of the campus community!

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