In today’s job market, everyone is constantly battling it out for better education, better salary and the best work environment. One easy way to make sure you land the internship or job of your dreams is to have proper etiquette. Even if we aren’t usually dining with the President of the United States or the Queen, there are still some simple improvements you can incorporate into your daily work routine to feel more polished. As this year’s internship season gets geared up, here are some tips for how to be the most professional version of yourself that you can be.


What time should you send an email?

If you’re sending an email to a peer, co-worker, boss, professor or anyone else that you only know in a professional setting, wait to send emails during business hours. People take note of the fact that they received an email from you at 1:07am, and it doesn’t look very good.

How should you structure your email?

Begin an email with a professional address “Dear Dr. ___” should suffice. Try to avoid sending email that are addressed to “to whom it may concern.” If you don’t know who you should be addressing the email to, try to find the name of someone who may be relevant on their website or on a business card. The body of the email should be concise and get to the point quickly. Sign off your email with “sincerely,” “regards,” or something similar, and your name and position at your company. If you’re a student, put what school you’re studying in and at which university.


Georgia Gallagher

College of Communications and Information Sciences

The University of Alabama


How should you answer the phone

Instead of just answering the phone with “Hello?” or “What’s up?” You should answer by stating your name or organization that you work for. I usually use “Hello, this is Georgia Gallagher,” or “This is Georgia’s phone.” Or, if the person asks to speak to you, instead of saying “that’s me” you could respond with “speaking” or “this is she.”


Every meal is going to be a little different, depending on how fancy it is, who you’re dining with, if you’re dining in another country that may have different etiquette rules and how many courses are being served. If you’re ever unsure of what to do, the best bet is to wait until others have started eating and watch what they do.

What am I going to be eating?

That entirely depends on where you are and how many courses you’re being served. In America, a typical five course meal will include a soup, appetizer, salad, main entree and a dessert. There may also be an after-dinner coffee included.

Why is there so much silverware?

A five course meal place setting might look a little foreign compared to the place settings your mom uses. A good rule of thumb is to start with the outside silverware first (the silverware furthest from the plate). If there is a smaller plate at the top left of the main plate, that’s your bread plate (good news: that means there will be bread at dinner), and it will typically have a smaller knife placed across it for butter. If there is silverware at the top of your plate, wait to use those until the end, as those are your dessert silverware.


How should you dress for different events

Trying to navigate the many different dress codes, like casual, business casual, business professional and formal can leave your head spinning. Put your best foot forward at work and work events.

RELATED READ: Casual, Business, And Professional Wardrobes: What They Are And When To Wear Each

Can I dress more formal than the dress code calls for?

Usually, yes. But do so with caution and don’t go overboard.

Can I dress less formal than the dress code calls for?

No. And in some cases, you’ll even be asked to leave the event you’re attending. It’s always better to stick to the dress code you’re provided.


How should I do my hair and makeup for different events?

This kind of comes down to personal preference but your first day of work, an important interview or a big conference isn’t the time to experiment with a brand new hair style or makeup technique. For important days, where you need to look polished, stick to what you know looks great on you.

I’m running late for work. Can I go to work with wet hair or should I skip the shower?

If you know you absolutely don’t have time to dry your hair before work, make sure you at least put it into a tight bun or braid so that you still look polished. In the future, set aside extra time in the morning to dry your hair, or start showering at night if you like to sleep in in the morning.

Do my nails need to be painted 24/7?

Getting your nails done all the time can be expensive. Some people just prefer to leave their nails bare. This is totally fine, just make sure you keep up with cleaning, clipping and filing your nails so they don’t start to look dirty and scraggly. If you have the time, money and patience, to go get your nails done all the time that’s great too! Just make sure you stick to simpler colors like nudes, pinks and reds in a professional work environment, as well as clean shapes. Most employers don’t love neon yellow stiletto nails.

Georgia G

Georgia Gallagher graduated from the University of Alabama in the summer of 2019 where she majored in Journalism and Political Science. She is currently working as a Cast Member at  Walt Disney World in Florida. In her free time she can be found advocating for pro-life policies and working with single or low-income mothers. She often says that her planner is second only to her Bible and she’s never caught without a cup of coffee in her hand.