The key to professionalism is living the part – inside the office and out.
Think about it: you will never see your boss the same way again after he got drunk at last year’s Christmas party, right? And the cashier at the grocery store – she definitely would have looked more reliable if she hadn’t been wearing those see-through leggings.
Even if it may be socially acceptable to act or dress in these ways, it makes you – and your company – look less professional. You could be a business-savvy mogul in your industry, but if your first (or second, or third, etc.) impression doesn’t live up to your authority, your skills won’t matter. Whether you’re trying to get in the door for an interview, or you just need to freshen up your appearance, these tips will help you represent your business (or club, or other organization) in a professional, credible manner.
- First things first, it is important to note that you are always representing your organization. This includes on holidays, at parties, and even when running errands downtown.
Hearing whispers like, “Did you hear what the president of the Student Council Association did at that party last night?” not only makes the SCA look bad, but also ruins your reputation as President – and that definitely is not good for your reelection campaign.
Whether that was how you meant to be perceived or not, people saw you make a fool of yourself at that party – and they won’t forget it. You need to act the part, and remember that people are always watching – even when you’re off the job.
Perhaps for you, this means minimizing your cursing or just standing up a little straighter. Try taking notes from politicians, celebrities, and other public figures whose actions (good and bad) are scrutinized extensively. Imagine if your clients or (future) employers examined you this way: would you pass their test?
Perception is reality, so make sure you are seen as the accomplished professional that you are by acting the part.
- Keeping a good reputation also includes cleaning up your social media. This is increasingly important in our technology-dominant world, where your online persona is just as important as the way you present yourself physically.
A good rule of thumb is to try to keep your social media posts positive. If you’re thinking of posting a negative status, it is probably unnecessary, and complaining can only hurt your reputation for the worst. You don’t need to fight back when a comment offends you, and you can simply let arguments go (it’s healthy for you, anyway). Maintain professionalism online by removing those drinking photos from your Facebook and Instagram, and watching what you tweet.
In addition, remember to professionalize your profile image and bio. These are the first things viewers see when they log onto your profile, so they should reflect your professional personality. Generally, a good profile picture is a solo headshot that shows your best side. Likewise, your short biography should reflect you and only you. It can be beneficial to make it unique, but overall, use it to describe yourself as a credible source. Avoid weird symbols (that could be interpreted as gang paraphernalia) and emojis in this – save those for your texts.
This applies on all social media sites, from YouTube to Pinterest. If it doesn’t reflect the way you want to be perceived, remove it! (And while it’s true that nothing on the Internet can ever really be deleted…better late than never.)
- Another key to professionalism is to dress for the job – all the time. This isn’t to say that you can’t wear sweatpants and mope around at home with your family, but if you want to maintain a strong business presence and make first impressions that accurately depict your personality, it’s important to dress the way you want to be perceived.
Jeans may be acceptable for shopping trips, but definitely not for interviews. If you want to be seen as a professional (future) employee, stick to clean cut everything, from a simple hairstyle to minimal makeup, and definitely no see-through clothes, no low-cut tops, and no untied-ties. Remember TLC’s What Not To Wear? Take notes from Stacy and Clinton! And remember, you are always representing yourself and your organization – including in the way you dress.
- Finally, when deciding on situations outside the scope of this article, don’t forget your company’s values. Perhaps your boss emphasizes discipline, or maybe respect is the feature trait for your organization. Either way, you want to appear to be the epitome of a star employee (or officeholder, or other leader). This will help when it comes time for your employer to decide who gets the promotion or pay raise – you want to be the face in their minds and the face of the company.
If you have even more specific questions, consider asking your supervisor for advice.
It can be hard to maintain your professional composure under social pressure, but if you can be strong (and keep a clean resume, among other things), people will begin to see you the way you want to be seen – and treat you likewise. Increasing professionalism can only help you in the working world, so whether you’re currently job searching, or you’re just a student looking to be the best you can, remember these tips to increase your value and professional reputation.
What are you best tips to keep yourself looking career-ready? Let me know in the comments!