Ask anyone in the business and professional life and they will tell you about the great importance of professional etiquette. Good professional manners put people at ease and make them feel respected as clients, customers, or fellow workers. All this has a serious impact on a young professional’s career.

People in the workforce will tell you that some workers, especially young ones or fairly recent university graduates, are clueless about these matters of etiquette. They may be technically skilled but socially clumsy. Bosses and fellow workers may assume, rightly or wrongly, that these young people are lacking in professionalism or even common sense. That’s why committing blunders in these areas not only looks bad but can hurt your career.

> There’s such a thing as a professional vocation. It’s some passionate love that directs your powers to the welfare of others and earns you a living. You should search long and wide to find a line of work that appeals to your heart_some labor that gives you knew in childhood when work and play were one. Few pleasures in life are more delightful than a job we really enjoy.

> One word of caution, though. You may love music or drama or sports so much that you think of these fields as potentials careers. Fine, but anchor yourself in reality. Entertainment and sports bring delight to millions. Hundreds of thousands of young people aspire to work in these feilds_and everyone in this vast throng is competing against you. To succeed, you must be exceptionally talented, extremely hardworking, single-mindedly ambitious, well connected with influential people, and ( to be frank about it) very, very lucky. The odds are hugely against you. Remember, no matter what you later do for a living, you can always enjoy these pursuits as recreational pastimes.

> Anyone seeking a career should take this advice: look hard and keep looking. Be alert to meeting people, hearing about opportunities, asking around, networking with everyone you know. Have the mentality of a taxi driver cruising around on the lookout for business. The world’s inventions and discoveries ( like Edison’s electric bulb) were achieved by people who were looking for something.

> Some professionals advise young people to get a job, any job, and use that as a basis for moving ahead. A job that puts you in touch with a lot of people, such as sales, seems to work best. What you learn on the job, especially if you have a good boss, can help you a lot to bring what you want into clearer focus and then make a career move.

> Rely on family and friends to tell you what you’re really good at. Often someone who is good at something is among the last to know it. Others notice our talent before we do. Why? Because to us the gift seems natural, easy, almost effortless. Pay attention when people close to you all say you have a gift that you should develop.

> Throughout history, finding a good career and a good job has always been a matter of whom you know. Credentials, experience, cold calls, mass mailings of resumes_ none of these beat connections through friends and mentors. Most likely your friends of our friends. For this reason_among many others, of course_it pays to have many high-quality friends and acquaintances. (A related piece of advice: Strive to stay in contact with your closest friends from high school and college. Work at making them friends for life.)

> Know the difference between a referral and a reference. A referral is just an introduction: someone you know socially introduces you to a friend or acquaintance who might be interested in hiring you. This is basically vouching for your character, without comment or judgment about your technical competence, something your friend may not be in a position to know. A reference, on the other hand, is an assessment of both your character and your professional competence based on that person’s knowledge about your work.

> Before you use anyone’s name as a reference, be sure to get that person’s permission. Prospective employers nearly always check references, so failure to secure prior permission from someone makes your reference worse than useless. You may mark yourself as immature, amateurish, or inconsiderate.

> Your mother had the right idea: Say “Thank you” frequently. People like to be appreciated. Moreover, in this way you mark yourself as mature and pleasant to deal with. Related to this, keep good quality stationery on hand to send thank-you notes for favors.

> Every few months, take a couple of hours to think deeply about your career and your future. How are things going? Where am I headed? What opportunities might I be overlooking? where do I want to be in five years down the road? Have a file where you keep notes on accomplishments to update your resume and do this at least twice a year. An updated resume is like a first aid kit: If you need it at all, you need it in a hurry.

> As you move along Plan A of your career, maintain a Plan B as well_an an alternative career course to rely on if you suddenly must. If someone loses a job, he or she quickly needs to undertake thinking, planning, networking, and action. Maintaining a Plan B means doing your thinking, planning, and networking ahead of time, long before the emergency, so you can move swiftly into action. Be prepared for anything.

> Always remember that the secret of success is passion, so think big. We tend to become what we think about. If you have high ambitions of service to people, starting with your family, you’ll be honored as an outstanding man and an excellent professional.