Maintaining professionalism in the workplace is essential for success. When working with other staff, vendors or customers, everything from appearance to communication skills matter in how you are perceived.
By paying close attention to your everyday mannerisms, you may start to be able to pick up on which areas are your strongest and which areas may need a little work.
It does take work, and you really do have to strive for it every day. To aid you in this journey, try incorporating some or all of these 15 easy ways to look more professional.
- Show Up … on Time
This may seem like a no-brainer, but being at work or at a meeting on time — or maybe even a little early — goes a long way in how you are perceived. Being on time shows you care about what you do and that the people you’re meeting are worth your time.
- Admit Mistakes
No one is perfect, so don’t try to get people to think you are. Admit when a mistake has been made or when you could use assistance. This shows not that you are weak but that you are human, which is an essential part of being authentic. People respond to this authenticity, as it puts you on the same level as everyone else.
- Get Tasks Completed on Time or Even a Little Early
This goes right along the same lines as showing up. People who are able to complete tasks on time will look more responsible. Maintain a calendar — electronic or paper — to help build your timeline to achieve tasks in a reasonable amount of time. Give updates of your progress when possible.
- Listen to What Others Are Saying and Respond
Whether or not you hold a management position doesn’t really matter when it comes to having a listening ear. Sometimes, people just need someone to hear their side or to hear what may not be working well within the office. Respond with questions that get them thinking about long-term solutions and how — together — things can improve.
- Be Customer-Centric
All of your interactions should be designed like someone who is in customer service. Customer service is meant to hear complaints, work on solutions, and make the customer feel as though they matter. But this doesn’t just apply to external customers; it also applies to internal. Look people in the eye when they’re speaking to you, and respond to their needs as quickly as possible.
- Maintain a Neat and Put-Together Appearance
The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” isn’t really helpful when trying to be professional. Believe it or not, statistics show a first impression is made within the first seven seconds of meeting someone, according to Carol Kinsey Goman from Forbes. With that in mind, be sure to wear modest neck and skirt lines, go light on cologne and makeup, cover up tattoos, and have nails that are clean and trim.
- Under-promise and Over-deliver
Be realistic about what can get accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. It’s better to do three things really well than to get 10 things done that are poorly put-together. Choose assignments wisely, and then set your timeframe up to allow for any issues that may come your way. If it gets done earlier than the client expects, great; you may have time to make it extra special for them.
- Consider Yourself Part of a Team
The “I can do it all” attitude doesn’t go very far with the people around you. Think of your co-workers as a team of people who are all working toward the same end: to fulfill the company’s mission. This means regardless of what it is you do, you need the skills of the people sitting next to you to move the company forward, so treat every position as one that is necessary to the team.
- Accept New Opportunities
One of the best things you can do for yourself career-wise is to learn to take on new challenges as much as possible. Be ready and willing to volunteer your time to keep learning and gaining experience. Employers will see your initiative and reward you for it.
- Show Confidence
Though bravado doesn’t get you anywhere, confidence does. Being confident in what you bring to the table in terms of your skills and abilities is essential. Come up with ideas and tackle tasks you know you will be good at.
Offer your services when you know you could truly help. Even walking with your head held high and shoulders back can make you appear more open and capable of performing your job well. For more help in this area, take a look at this great article on The Muse from Libby Kane of LearnVest.
- Get Excited
According to a recent study, the average American works up to 47 hours a week. That’s 2,444 hours a year. If you’re going to spend that much time doing something, you might as well get excited about it. Look for all of the positives in your work, and try to come up with ways to see the value of what it is you do.
- Control Emotions
We can all think of the one person in the office who is always bringing drama to work. Don’t be that person. Leave any outside drama at the door of the building, and try not to discuss your personal life with others too much. Getting angry or storming off while at work will only ensure that’s what people will remember of you, which will only hinder your success. Instead, try to balance being pleasant with others while being “real” as well.
- Learn When to Ask for Help
It can be so hard to admit that, sometimes, you can’t do everything. When the load is getting to be too much and it feels like you may self-implode, take a deep breath and seek out the counsel of your supervisor. Have her/him help you prioritize and delegate tasks. Needing assistance doesn’t have anything to do with weakness; it’s a sign that you want to do your job well.
- Think Strategically
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box or to try to “work smarter, not harder.” Efficiency in the workplace is highly valuable, as is efficiency with long-term goals in mind. Consider daily how the things you do every day are affecting the company in the long run. Does it make you have ideas for where things can go? Speak up.
- Communicate Clearly and Respectfully
This is a tough one to learn, but it is absolutely crucial to looking more professional. Know when to use an email, when to pick up the phone, or when to visit someone in person to talk. Talking down to others is never okay, regardless of what position you hold. Be clear in instructions and open to clarifying should there be questions.
Professionalism can lead your career in new and surprising directions, as those around you begin to trust your abilities and interactions. It can open up doors and opportunities that may have been closed to you otherwise.
BONUS: An infographic!
I was so excited when 24Slides reached out and asked to create an infographic for Punched Clocks! They took the post and made it visual in this awesome graphic below. Enjoy, and don’t forget to share your tips for looking more professional in the comments!