After having not updated the site in quite a while, I’ve decided that I’ve neglected it for far to long. As a quick dip back into the shallow end I’m providing several of my thoughts on professionalism which I hope will be found useful.
1. Practice Good Hygiene – This should really go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many people just don’t get it. Take a shower before you go to work. Brush your teeth and hair. Wear clothes that are appropriate to your work environment. Wear clothes that are clean and ironed if necessary. If you must wear a scent of some kind, don’t overdo it. Some people are allergic, others just don’t like having to smell you coming down the hall. Your appearance is a very important aspect of your overall professional presentation.
2. Be Positive – No one cares about your problems. It’s just the way things work. I know your divorce, custody battle, bad night with the in-laws, or recent arrest are at the tip of your consciousness, but try to leave those things at home when you leave for work. They only serve as a distraction to others and ultimately paint you as a negative person. Whether others know it or not they are forming impressions of you which are not positive, that last.
3. Be in the Moment – Refrain from zoning out during meetings, falling asleep, checking your cell phone constantly, doodling on your note pad, or anything else that will take your mind off the conversation at hand. Not only will you not know what’s going on but others notice this and they will start to see you as indifferent. This is not a good thing. You want to appear as though you actually care about what’s going on.
4. Be Courteous and Understanding – Everyone has different opinions, thoughts, ideas, and general perspectives. Yours are not the only correct ones. Listen to what others have to say. Do not talk over people. Pay attention to what they’re saying and digest it instead of tuning them out, thinking about what you’re going to say next. When someone says something that you disagree with, decide if arguing your side has any merit. If there’s nothing to gain other than making your point avoid it all-together and move on. If there is merit in defending your side find a tactful, fact-based approach to doing so. Do not fight, argue, or insult. Debate professionally.
5. You’re Not a Politician – These days inner-office politics are more prevalent than ever before. Typically nothing good comes from this. Don’t look at your job, career, profession, or interactions with other people as ongoing chess matches. Sure there are times when you need to think very carefully about what you say before saying it. There will also be times when you need to take certain actions in order to increase your chances of promotions, recognition, etc…, but don’t fall victim to the paranoia-induced politically-charged workplace infighting that tends to exist all over the place. Ultimately, if you do the best job you can and follow all the basic rules of professionalism success will come. If you have to play the political game, it takes a lot of your fate out of your hands.
6. Be True to Your Ethics and Morals – To whichever set of ethical and moral beliefs you subscribe, be true to them. Don’t let your quest for success, recognition, fame, or fortune tempt you to stray from a path that lets you feel good about yourself. Stand up for your values and beliefs and don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you have them. It’s not a bad thing.
7. Don’t Break the Law – It’s never worth it. There is plenty of business out there to go around and it can be acquired through legal and ethical channels. Don’t be tempted to cut corners, seek back doors, exploit relationships that should not be leveraged, or anything else that would otherwise be considered illegal or unethical. You’ll go to jail and it will all be over. It’s not worth it.
8. Manage Yourself – No matter what you do for a living, take responsibility for your own job and your own actions. Don’t expect others to have to tell you what to do. Don’t expect that you can get away with anything unless you are caught. Don’t expect others to have to micro-manage your time spent on tasks. Take control of your daily schedule. Take charge of your task list. Do what you’re supposed to do. You’re getting paid for it. You have a responsibility to do what you’re being paid to do, and you should do it well.
9. Be Self-Motivated – Volunteer for tasks that aren’t in your job description. Offer to help a coworker in need. Force yourself to want to do more than you’re being asked to do at work. These are all things that will make you more successful in your profession. Don’t wait to be asked to help with something. Don’t sit idle when others have backlogs. Help. You will be rewarded.
10. Be Confident – No matter what you do for a living, if you’re to be taken seriously you have to look like you know what you’re doing. I’m not saying you should pretend to know something you don’t. If there are knowledge gaps in your doing of what you do, fill them. But always be confident. In meetings, make eye contact. Think about what you are going to say before you say it. Don’t fidget. Don’t keep your hands in your pockets. Practice good posture. Sit or stand confidently. When you speak avoid words and phrases like “um”, “like”, “okay”, ending sentences with the word “right”. Avoid using buzzwords to mask the depth of your subject-matter knowledge. Be direct, honest, and confident.
Though this list is far from complete, I think it’s a good start for anyone who wants to improve their overall professionalism. The basic concept is, if you present yourself in a professional and non-offensive manner at all times you will go places.