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International students learn American career practices

International students learn American career practices

Elizabeth Lorentzen gave Hofstra’s international students tips on scoring a career through a presentation on business culture in the United States. Photo courtesy of Annemarie LePard

International students looking to pursue a career in the U.S. had the opportunity to attend a workshop on how to communicate professionally on Tuesday, April 23. The event introduced students to business culture in the United States, specifically when it comes to sending emails, phone etiquette, video conferencing and making a first impression.

U.S. business culture follows a “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” mantra, according to Elizabeth Lorentzen, the manager of the learning and development at Human Resources, who conducted the event.

According to Lorentzen, the primary methods of business communication are “face-to-face, email, phone and video chat.”

There are certain unwritten rules that come along with face-to-face communication in the workplace. “You are expected to ask questions and contribute to small talk, arrive on time, don’t ask how much money someone makes and remember to keep on a happy face,” Lorentzen said.

Lorentzen emphasized that in many cases, email is the primary way people communicate in the workplace; therefore, it is necessary to “treat every email as if you are writing on a company letterhead.” She explained the importance writing an email with the phrase, “Dance like no one is watching. Write an email as if it will be used in a court of law one day.”

To write sophisticated emails, Loretzen said, it is necessary have a professional email address, include a subject, begin with appropriate greetings, keep the message simple, write in full sentences and remain professional at all times.

Lorentzen suggested tips for email construction, including to “add the email address last – after you have written and proofed the email – so [as] to not accidentally send an unfinished message.”

Many of these rules for emailing apply to telephone communication in U.S. business culture as well. “It is crucial to keep a smile in your voice. People pay more attention to your tone than your words,” she said.

Other advice includes giving the caller complete attention, not interrupting, speaking clearly, using the caller’s name sparingly, avoiding industry slang and always leaving a brief, informative voicemail when a caller is unavailable.

According to Lorentzen, the general rule is, “If what you need to communicate is complicated, it is better to pick up the phone. Bad or difficult, news should always be delivered over the phone or in person.”

“Being an international student, the U.S. is a very different environment for me,” said junior Aleksandra Radeva, a political science and global studies double major from Bulgaria.

“There are some differences in communication, and it is important that I understand what is the proper way of conduct, especially in a business setting, given that I will be getting a job in the near future.”

On top of gaining knowledge in telephone etiquette, Radeva also learned about video conferencing – something she was previously unfamiliar with.

“I’ve come to realize that it’s not about what you know, but what you show about yourself that makes the first impression.”

Steven Shen is an international student from China and a graduate student studying marketing. Shen is doing everything he can to learn about American culture, especially the business aspect. He is thankful for events like these because “if [Hofstra] didn’t put it on, I know nothing – language is an obstacle.”

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