Taking Professional Interactions to the Next Level

This is a guest blog post by the CDO’s Office Coordinator, Heidi Baguer.

Hello! My name is Heidi Baguer and I am the Office Coordinator for Notre Dame Law School’s Career Development Office. In this front facing role, I am the first person you’ll see when you come into the CDO and so I am fortunate to get substantial interaction with students and to hear about interactions students have with employers and other offices on campuses. This high volume of interactions has equipped me to offer you some helpful advice that will increase the effectiveness and professionalism of your daily interactions!

“Hi, I can’t log into my account. Can you help me?”

Just about every office coordinator has been on the receiving end of many a phone call that started this way. Do yourself a favor and don’t be that person who just jumps right into the middle of a conversation on the phone without the appropriate niceties and context to kick off the phone call. There are some basic professional “do’s & don’ts” that you should always practice with regard to phone calls. Namely, when initiating a phone call, you should always:

  • Greet the person answering your call (“Hi, how are you doing?”);
  • Identify yourself (“My name is Amy Smith and I am a 1L at Notre Dame”);
  • Pleasantly, clearly, and politely inform the person answering your call how they can help you (“I am having trouble logging into my IrishLink account. Could I impose on you to reset my password or show me what I am doing wrong?”);
  • Be sure to thank the person with whom you’re on the phone just prior to the end of the call (“Thanks so much for your help, Heidi. I really appreciate you taking time to talk with me.”).

I know these sound like basic, rudimentary steps, but sometimes, in our haste to get something done, we can inadvertently skip over some or all of these courtesies. I have certainly been guilty of this before myself. But be careful not to skip them! They go a long way. These steps will help ensure a pleasant, informational interaction in which the person you are calling has all of the context they need to help you and feels respected.

The same would apply to entering an office environment and greeting the person at the reception area. You should always stop, introduce yourself, and state the purpose of your visit. Don’t just assume that because you have an appointment or interview that you should barrel on in. The receptionist is there to direct traffic, including those who have appointments and those who don’t, so basic professionalism dictates that you politely greet the receptionist and ask them how they are doing. I promise they will ask if you have an appointment and make sure you are directed where you need to go.

When you enter an office, even if you have an appointment, not everyone knows what you’re there for, or the person you’re meeting may not be ready to meet with you. Keep in mind that the first impression you make matters, from the first person you encounter through the last, during your visit to an office. In fact, after your interview, it is a very common practice for attorneys to ask everyone you interacted with, including paralegals, secretaries, and the receptionist how you treated them. So be the guy the receptionist raves about!

Beyond phone calls and in-person interactions, more often than not, email is the primary way of communicating with co-workers, clients, and employees. Here are a few key points you should try to incorporate with regard to your email etiquette:

  • Answer emails in a timely fashion. This is typically considered to be within 24 hours or less. This means answering all emails.
  • Unless it’s spam, you shouldn’t delete emails. It’s always best to archive them so you can reference them at a later time……because more likely than not, there will be a later time.
  • Proofread your message before sending it. Poor spelling, typos, and grammatical errors will be noticed.
  • I’m sure it goes without saying, but do yourself a favor and DO NOT use emojis! They should be reserved for personal correspondence; not professional.
  • Use the appropriate closing to your email. You want to leave the right impression with your email sign-off (i.e. thanking them for their help).

With just a few small tweaks, you can take all of your professional interactions to the next level and stand out as a polished, polite professional. I can’t wait to work with you so please come to the CDO and say hi!


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