You landed the job – congratulations! Now how do you ensure that you consistently impress with professionalism across your work day, projects and interactions? It can be challenging to keep up the professionalism once you're comfortable at your new workplace. These tips will help you be the best version of your professional self.
When addressing coworkers, make sure to be respectful of everyone. Of course, you'll likely use a different tone and formality with peers than with your bosses, but be conscious of those differences and understand the work environment. Maybe everyone talks informally with each other in the office, but some senior-ranking employees might take offense to overly-casual conversations. Airing on the formal side is the best course of action. It has always been important to me to maintain authenticity and be the same me at work and at home, but it has been equally important for me to create natural boundaries on what I share in the office and how I approach interactions with others. What they may feel comfortable talking about could be very different than what you feel comfortable talking about in a professional setting. I often employ a reflective style for my interactions, not matching or mimicking tone and language of the person that I am speaking to, but more taking cues on what they are talking about – if they ask me about what kind of music I listen to or how I liked a specific restaurant, I try to ask a similar type of question.
In addition to knowing your audience, avoid those foot-in-mouth moments created by using slang and cursing. Your office likely employs people from different cities, states and countries, and slang has different meanings depending on where you are. To help you avoid missteps, steer away from localized slang that someone might misconstrue or misunderstand. It's been important for me to know that even if coworkers are employing a casual tone and using slang or off-color remarks, this is not how I want to present myself. Let individuals take the time to get to know you and don't worry about trying too hard to “fit in." I think we all want to be liked, but starting with a high level of respect is a nice building block to get there healthily.
Clean space, clear mind. Not only will having a tidy environment keep you focused, it will also help you maintain a professional-looking space. Your boss might see an unkempt or dirty desk as meaning you are lazy – and you don't want that to be their first impression. I am a bit obsessive about being organized, and make sure all my notebooks, papers, etc. are organized throughout the day. I have a couple knick-knacks on my desk, these cool quartz coasters I put my water or coffee on and a small tray for jewelry (sometimes my bracelets clink waaay too much on the keyboard, creating disruptive and random noise pollution in the office -- which is also an etiquette pet peeve of mine).
We all go about our days with our phones attached to one hand (and if you're like me, a coffee cup in the other). As tempting as it is to check your social media feeds throughout the day, try to avoid this habit as much as possible. It will distract you and make it harder for you to get back on track with work. Plus, it makes you look disinterested and disengaged to your fellow employees and bosses. In my role now, I actually have 30 minutes to an hour each day blocked on my calendar dedicated to work-related social media. I leave any personal checking to one to two times in a day when I can do so discreetly and not during a conversation with a coworker. Don't be that person constantly checking your phone, I don't care if your makeup YouTube channel or food Instagram handle is totally hot right now, your fans can wait a hot minute.
I am admittedly a bit sick of hearing, “Don't dress for the job you have, but the job you want." I am the youngest in my family and a bit stubborn, so my response is, “I will dress however I want!" That said, it is so important to dress appropriately at work. Even if your office is more casual than others, looking unkempt makes you seem indifferent and unmotivated. If you notice, all great business leaders talk the talk and walk the walk. This goes beyond your wardrobe and really speaks more to hygiene, posture and attitude! Walk with your head held high and sit up straight in your chair (or stand tall at your trendy standing desk). You'll look and feel more confident, while exuding poise and attentiveness. When it comes to sporting the latest trend, check in with the HR handbook and ensure that you're not pushing any envelopes, while also staying true to what you feel comfortable in and keeping the larger environment in mind. For example, I love getting “all suited up," but Seattle is much more casual than other cities. So although I still do me, I may reserve some of my more conservative power suits for a conference or a trip east.
I mentioned attitude earlier, and it bears repeating. Make a concerted effort to go about your day with kindness and positivity. Even if you're having a tough day, try your best to smile at coworkers and keep up your manners. Your positivity will always stick with people and make you stand out in their minds when someone asks them about you and your performance. As Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Don't feel quite up to bringing on the sunshine? Just don't be a rain cloud, okay? Okay!
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