In need of a job? Want to avoid living on Mom’s couch forever? Professional demeanor can be the difference between being hired or fired. Here are 8 simple tips that you can use to make certain you are prepared to behave like the professional that you are or have the potential to be.
1. Dress “appropriately”
What is appropriate? Well, this may vary by position. Yet, as a general rule of thumb, if the attire is appropriate for a night club or party, it most likely is NOT appropriate for the workplace.
2.Speak with substance
Make meaningful conversation, and answer questions directly, rather than talking in circles. Do not over-disclose, revealing information about your personal life or personality that may not be desired in the workplace. You should strive to be friendly and confident. Show them that you have important things to say, yet also make an effort to avoid idle talk.
3. Strive for productivity
Have a daily agenda and execute it. Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram can wait until your shift is over. Limit time on email if possible, and avoid gossiping with co-workers. The types of things you need to do (or not do) to stay productive will depend on your job and other priorities. Perhaps you and your colleagues could share ideas about how to make the most of your time at work, or maybe you could ask your friends who appear successful at balancing just how they do it.
4. Be Polite
It’s important to be yourself, yet sometimes we all have to bite our tongues and attempt to hide feelings about rude colleagues or supervisors. This is all part of being polite and avoiding unnecessary conflict with others. Being polite can entail smiling, remaining empathetic and open, respecting differences, finding others’ strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses, and striving to really listen when someone is talking to you.
5. Be on time
Being on time is a great way to show respect, credibility, accountability, and commitment to your job. Being late could mean that you will soon be walking into random shops at the strip mall looking for jobs.
6. Be confident
Confidence says, “I got this. I know what I am doing”. Displaying confidence is often a sign of a great leader. What company wants to hire or continue to pay an employee that doesn’t believe themselves that they can do the job?
7. Display phone, email, and dining etiquette.
There is nothing more distracting than listening to a co-worker burp or chomp their food while on a phone conference, or talk with their mouth full while at a business dinner. A meeting over dinner or an interview that involves dining is not actually about food, so eat before you go or when you are done if you’re hungry.
Many professors and employers complain about college graduates’ email etiquette, so remember to use proper salutations, proof-read, and be formal and concise when communicating electronically. Establishing and maintaining relationships is an important part of many jobs, and, aggressive, informal, or tactless interactions is not a form of professional relationship maintenance or impression management.
8. Value hygiene
Wake up, brush your teeth, wash your face…you know the drill. It may be hard to have meaningful, productive interactions with co-workers if you’re allergic to soap and water. Proper hygiene is critical and a courtesy to others.
*Some of the research for this article was done by UIUC undergraduate student, Eric Finney. A huge thanks to Eric for all of his hard work…and sense of humor.
Bartle, E. (2014). What is professionalism? Three different perspectives. Clinical Teacher, 11, 233-234. doi:10.1111/tct.12258
Brannen, M. (2012). Keeping your cool with co-workers. Quill, 100, 31.