Yesterday, I had coffee with a talented young lady who’s looking for work. She’s got incredible chops, valuable experience, solid knowledge and what has become for me the X factor: manners.

We first met while I was doing free resume and cover letter reviews at Carrboro Coworking. At 1:55 when Brian came to say my 2P appointment had called to say she was running late, I was surprised. Not that she was late -- it was a very stormy day and everybody in town was running a little behind – but that she had bothered to call at all. And when she got there, only about 7 minutes late, she apologized and then got down to business so we could end on time. Again, I was impressed. At the end of our session, she thanked me graciously and followed up with an email note later. Nice!

What upsets me is that this is no longer the norm. Growing up here in the South, I’ve expected people to “know how to act” for most of my life. But in the last 10 years, I’ve noticed that even folks ‘round here seem to have forgotten what my friend Melissa Churchill calls “home training” – assuming they got any at all.

Maybe we're just being Southern, but manners do matter (here’s a piece I wrote on the subject for the Seattle Times). They make other people like you, which can't hurt when you're looking for a job, trying to land an account, or attempting to negotiate deal.

And since common courtesy isn’t so common these days, minding your manners can be that point of difference that makes you stand out from the crowd. I know from my own experience as an obsessive thank-you note writer, that small gestures like this not only establish you as a thoughtful person, but help keep you top-of-mind.

Maybe that makes good manners good marketing.

How into manners are we? Well, I'm known around the factory as Miss Gentle Breeding. And Carolyn was elected Miss Gracious Living in college and has reigned ever since.