Think about the last time someone really commanded your attention in a professional setting. What was it about them that was so captivating? Perhaps it was one of your superiors or an outside consultant brought into the workplace to provide some third-party perspective. Maybe there’s even a co-worker who exemplifies this quality — the quality of being “professional.”
At face value, the word professional means you perform a specific discipline and are paid for it. But, you know that there’s more to it than that. To truly live up to the word, you’ve got to look and act the part. Here are three tips to help you round out your professionalism skill set.
1. Practice Good Workplace Habits
As with so many things in life, acting with confidence in the workplace will make you look smart and cause your peers to react positively toward you. It’s not just a matter of blindly projecting your arrogant thoughts into the workplace, though. Real confidence should come from living up to good values by exercising good habits.
You worked your way into the role you have by understanding what it takes to succeed, so you’ve got the basics. Now, you have to evolve with the workplace. Anticipate how your upcoming projects will roll out, think strategically, exercise real compassion toward your co-workers and follow through on the promises you make. These things might sound simple, but when you execute them, you’ll avoid putting yourself in precarious situations. This will keep you in good favor with your peers and productive in the workplace.
2. Know How and When to Show Some Class
Most people know how to recognize the difference between class and arrogance. It can be helpful to display some provenance when you want to appear professional — just do it in a way that’s tasteful.
For example, let’s say you’ve got a client coming in to discuss a potential business deal. You could have an employee go to the airport and shuttle them in a company car, but a more professional thing to do would be to arrange a black car to pick them up. Why black? It sends the message that you care about your client’s comfort even before they’ve finalized a deal with you, and that you’re successful enough to provide this complimentary service.
Conversely, when your team travels outside the office, make sure they look their best. It can be tempting to travel in a tee shirt and jeans, but the image you project abroad will stay with your company. It’s not just your clients who will judge you, either — the public will notice your team if they are dressed to win. Think about all of the interesting people you’ve met on airplanes. Would you be more likely to do business with someone wearing Bermuda shorts, or a blazer? Even in the era of work-from-anywhere, looking the part goes a long way.
3. Look Like a Professional
Speaking of looking the part, what exactly does that mean? Earlier, we mentioned wearing a sportcoat, but not every workplace is so formal that you need to wear a suit to look professional. Instead, consider implementing good habits similar to those we mentioned about your conduct.
Make sure you stay on top of your hygiene — not just things like brushing your teeth, but also keeping any facial hair well-manicured and attending to small details like eyebrows. Buy quality clothing that fits you well. If you can afford it, consider using a tailor. To preserve your clothes and help them present better, send your things to a dry cleaning service to be washed.
Pay attention to your shoes, too. Leather shoes tend to look more professional than sneakers, and you should keep some shoe polish around to make sure your kicks are clean before big presentations and the like. For extra points, a modest-looking watch and perhaps a new pair of glasses are good accessories, too.
Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good
Just like an athlete preparing to compete, you will perform at your best when you step into the workplace proud of how you intend to act and how you appear to your team. Take it one step at a time, set attainable, realistic goals, and you’ll be surprised at how good you feel when everything comes together.
Photo provided by the author.