When entering a new career, many of us head into existing business environments. We take our first few weeks learning who sits where, and how everybody takes their tea. This is the case in offices across the country, and so gives us a readymade in-point when we first join a new company. Get the drinks run right, and you’re sure to fit in.
Sometimes, though, things aren’t as clear-cut. After all, not all careers will find you based in an office, or even a shop space. In some fields, you’ll be expected to take your business to clients and customers instead.
When this happens, it can be harder than usual to find your footing. When entering someone else’s home, those workplace rules and standards will no longer be relevant. And, you may find yourself wondering how exactly you’re meant to make a good impression and settle in.
In truth, though, more career options require entering someone else’s home than you may think. Let’s talk through some of them here –
- Some sales positions
- Estate agents
And a lot more besides. For the most part, all these roles vary and have incredibly different success markers. For instance, a carer’s job is to put someone at ease, while a builder should focus more on the task at hand. But, given that all these careers involve going into someone’s private home, they have more in common than you’d think.
If you’ve never done a job like this, it can be a daunting enterprise. After all, accepting a customer into a shop or office is always done on your terms. You hold power, offer the cups of tea, and know where to find everything you need. When you enter their house, that power flips. And, as it does, the etiquette for your behavior changes, too.
But, how exactly does it change, and what do you need to do to get this dynamic right?
Always make your presence known
The first step is always ALWAYS to make yourself known. This may seem strange, but individuals like estate agents, carers, and cleaners often have keys. As such, there could be room for error here if you aren’t careful. That could be catastrophic. After all, in many ways, working relationships like these are based on trust. If you take your client by surprise, you may inadvertently compromise on that trust. Instead, make sure it never happens by always announcing yourself. Estate agents, for one, would likely be better knocking, and only using their keys if they don’t get an answer. For practical purposes, a carer should use that key. But, always shout out as they’re entering the house, and pop their head around the room the client is using. This is a simple case of etiquette and could help to put everyone at ease. No one can deny that this is an unusual working dynamic. Taking steps like these can ensure everyone stays happy throughout the process.
Ask questions, but not too many
You’ll realize early on that there are questions you need to ask. This isn’t your office. You don’t know where things are kept, or even what the household rules are. And, you can’t know unless you ask about them. First, you should ask where everything you’re going to need is kept. For carers, this could include tea and coffee facilities and medical supplies. For builders, it could mean water sources and such. The technicalities will vary for each career, but you can be sure you’ll need to become familiar with at least a few things. As for household rules, these are again essential for maintaining respect. What’s more, following these can ensure you don’t do anything to upset or annoy a client. You need to know things like whether to take your shoes off, or which rooms are out of bounds. Bear in mind, though, that you shouldn’t ask about these things so often it becomes annoying. After all, you wouldn’t ask the same questions in any other business setting. To make sure you don’t have to repeat yourself, it may even be worth taking along a pad and making notes. That way, you’ll be able to refer to this next time you need help finding your way around or remembering a rule.
As we’ve already gathered, respect is crucial here. As such, acting respectful should be top of your priority list. Namely, that means never snooping through a client’s private belongings. It may sound shocking, but we’re curious creatures by nature. You might not see anything wrong with picking up a photo frame and taking a look. In fact, most people wouldn’t consider that snooping at all. But, your client may not see it that way. In fact, this may feel like a breach of boundaries which leaves them unable to continue working with you. This is even a no-go for carers, who can get to know patients on a personal level. In this instance, there’s nothing wrong with accepting photographs you’re shown. But, you should still never seek them out or take it upon yourself. You certainly shouldn’t ever open drawers, or search through personal belongings, no matter your motivation. As well as being a breach, this could lead to accusations of theft which would end your career altogether.
Acting respectful also comes into play where your noise levels are concerned. This is especially the case for builders, gardeners, and even decorators. You are, inevitably, going to have to use loud machinery sometimes. Without it, you’ll struggle to get the job done. But, you need to respect that this is someone’s home. At any time, they could have work to do or phone calls to make. As such, it’s worth always consulting before doing loud work like this. If you know a noisy job is coming the following day, ask about which times would be best. Focus on other tasks until the agreed time. It’s a small step, but it’ll make a massive difference to your ongoing relationship.
Look the part
It’s also crucial that you look the part. In many business settings, this is a clear-cut thing. But, when you’re out in the field, the rules change a little. For one, you’re representing your company. As such, there may be more need to wear your company logo somewhere, or just place it on a lanyard around your neck. This adds a level of professionalism which can put a client’s mind at ease.
In some instances, it may even be necessary to take this further. For example, though carers aren’t in a hospital, it’s essential they keep up with hygiene and safety. Thus, even carers out in the field need to make sure they’re wearing something like these four stretch scrubs. They should also think about what they wear on their feet. For the most part, this will depend upon the health issue in question. Some special footwear may be necessary for hygiene purposes. Equally, cleaners will want to think about this type of problem. While they don’t need to go all out with a complete uniform, white coats or aprons would be a good idea. For one, this ensures no cleaning products get on your clothes. But, this will also ensure you look the part, and that’s important.
Take time but not too much
One of the hardest things about entering people’s homes is that clients are right there watching. In few other industries do you get such steady scrutiny of your work and progress. And, when you know you’re being watched, you may find that you struggle to get the balance of timing right. Obviously, you don’t want to take too long and look incompetent or unprofessional. But, you don’t want to rush and make mistakes or do bad work either. The trick, then, is to take time, but not too much of it. That may sound unhelpful, but it’s worth thinking about this when you feel yourself worrying. For the most part, your client likely isn’t even paying as much attention as you think. As such, you should spend as long on a job as you need to without pushing the boundaries. Act as though your client isn’t nearby, and focus instead on doing the job to the best of your ability. And, remember that few people would complain about a job done well. If you rush, however, you’re more likely to fall foul to bad comments.
As you can see, entering someone else’s home for a living has its own unique set of rules. When you first enter this field, it’s likely you will feel out of your comfort zone for a while. But, as with anything, practice makes perfect. After three or four different jobs, this will feel no different to you than a day in the office. In fact, you may even find that you’re able to build better relationships this way than you would have otherwise. And, we all know that better relationships mean ongoing business!