UConn’s Center for Career Development’s new session, ‘Understanding U.S. Work Culture,’ reviews the basic rules of America’s modern workplace 

On April 3, 2023, UConn’s Center for Career Development hosted a session called “Understanding U.S. Work Culture.” The event was hosted by Desirée Martino, a career coach at the Center for Career Development and Yuxin Xia, a second year intern at the center. Photo courtesy of UConn Center for Career Development on YouTube

On Monday, April 3, Desirée Martino, a career coach at the University of Connecticut’s Center for Career Development, hosted a session titled “Understanding U.S. Work Culture.” Yuxin Xia, a second year at UConn as well as an intern at the center, accompanied Martino and shared some of her own experiences in learning the ropes of the American workplace as well as compared it to her own culture in hopes of sharing her knowledge with others.  

While Center for Career Development events are open to all students, Martino hoped the event would benefit international students in particular, seeing as workplace environments and norms differ across countries and cultures.  

Martino discussed various qualities that she believed were tenets of the American workplace, from work culture and appropriate work attire, to how to communicate within a company. Though the discussions were surface-level, this session provided a good first step for those who have worked in different countries and are curious as to how things differ in the United States.  

To begin, Martino voiced her belief that the U.S. has “no one work culture.” She described her experience of the American workplace as a melting pot of individualism, varying work ethic, informality, collaboration and more. She broke down a few of these categories with the help of Xia sharing her personal experiences.  

Martino transitioned to the theme of informality, that her experience with American work culture included sharing one’s opinion when it came to business, an occurrence that may not be as typical in other countries. In addition to this, workplaces in the U.S. tend to refer to co-workers and superiors by their first names — Xia mentioned that some Asian workplaces would find this extremely strange and inappropriate. Moreover, in the U.S., we develop relationships with our co-workers and superiors in which we feel comfortable having non-work-related conversations. In other countries, work life and personal life are generally more strictly separated.  

Next, Martino discussed dress codes in American work culture. As someone who has lived in the U.S. for my entire life, I still found this section enlightening.  

She explained the three categories of business attire: business casual, business and smart casual. Business casual, as described by Martino, should be “a step above jeans,” but still more comfortable than straight business attire. Business attire should be your most impressive collection of clothes to wear to the workplace. However, these first two categories are not what surprised me about this section. The “smart casual” attire category did, as I personally had never heard of this category before. Smart casual still alludes to the idea of “dressing to impress,” but with the freedom to dress more comfortably and to wear something that represents your personality more.  

To close, Martino went over how to learn about the environment of individual companies you may want to work for. She suggested talking to UConn alumni, reviewing the “About Us” page of the company’s website and asking questions during your interview as the three most effective ways to learn about a company’s culture. She added that there should be plenty of opportunities to discover more about the environment of your company within the first week of starting the job.  

For more resources and career advice, or access to more sessions such as this one, go to the Center of Career Development’s website.   

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