School starts this week and I've spent most of the summer preparing what I hope are interesting classes for my students. My 12th graders in particular are at an important crossroad: life awaits. Some will go to college, some into the workforce. Either way, I have 10 months to pour as much as I can into them before I lose this magical opportunity to influence them - and yes, hopefully help them avoid some mistakes I've made and I've seen made in my (mumble, mumble) years as a business leader. Here's 6 professional habits that will serve them well no matter the path they choose.
#1 - The Habit of Manners
Look people in the eye. Greet them verbally. Shake their hand firmly, but not overwhelmingly. Be ready to make some interesting small talk. Learn proper table manners. Dress like you're about to meet someone important, because you never know when you will.
#2 - The Habit of Networking
How do you build a network? Stay in touch with the people that you meet. Teachers that are here now, teachers that have returned to their home country. People you meet through school events and volunteering. People you've been introduced to by others. If someone gives you their card, follow up with an email. You never know who is going to be working where and in what position later in life.
#3 - The Habit of A Discreet Public Persona
It's time to get rid of the e-mail address "2Hot4You@email.com." Use a free e-mail service like Gmail or Yahoo and create an e-mail address using your name. Don't over complicate it: firstname.lastname@example.org will do just fine. Start a LinkedIn profile. Get someone to take a decent headshot of you - skip the selfies. And here's a tip, we know when you've cropped someone else out of the photo, and we know when you're holding a beer. Also, we're going to check you out on social media. Make sure your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other accounts reflect what you want to be known for.
#4 - The Habit of Time Management
Repeat after me: "early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable." Use your senior year to experiment with time management strategies. A to-do list, Microsoft Outlook, your phone calendar, a notebook, Google calendar. Analyze your time to see where your wasting it. Analyze your day to determine when you're most efficient. Find what works for you and create habits that will make you effective.
#5 - The Habit of Journaling
If you're not already keeping a journal, now is the time to start. Writing in a journal helps you clarify your thoughts. It helps you set goals. It allows you to record your progress. It helps you think through your processes. It helps you articulate your successes and learn from your setbacks. It provides a forum for self-accountability.
#6 - The Habit of Healthy Finances
Start a bank account. Be careful of debt. Put together a personal budget that includes a line for savings. Remember that putting a small amount aside on a regular basis is more effective in the long run than putting a big chunk aside once in a while.