Regardless of who you are or what you do, it's probably a safe bet that you want to look like a pro. When you exhibit a professional image, you increase your own confidence while simultaneously boosting the confidence others have in you and your capabilities. It's a win-win.
Unfortunately, many so-called "professionals" undermine their credibility by exhibiting amateurish workplace behavior. Take a look at the list below and see if you're unintentionally harming your professional image with these rookie mistakes.
1. You're late. If you want to appear careless, disorganized, disrespectful, and self-centered, show up late for meetings and appointments. Nothing says, "I'm unreliable," quite like working on your own schedule with complete disregard for the needs of others.
Alternatively, arriving on time (or better yet, a few minutes early), shows that you respect your time (and everyone else's) and you know how to manage yourself accordingly.
2. Your etiquette is lacking. You opt for hugs over handshakes, check your phone during meetings, and always take a joke too far. Your etiquette is clearly lacking—or perhaps you were just never taught good manners. These kinds of things can make you look inexperienced, awkward, or just plain rude. Even worse, poor etiquette makes those around you feel uncomfortable and, in some cases, downright offended. In the workplace that can lead to serious problems.
Contrary to popular belief, good etiquette doesn't require being boring, overly formal, or stiff. It's about showing respect and putting those around you at ease. The more you do that, the more people will enjoy being in your presence—and that's the foundation for building strong professional relationships.
3. You lack perspective. It's hard to take someone seriously when they appear unaware of what's going on outside their personal bubble. Whether discussing the economy as a whole or looking at industry trends, professionals have real world, up-to-date information that shows their broad understanding of the environment in which they operate. Amateurs, on the other hand, are focused solely on their own sphere of influence. And while this makes them feel powerful, they can end up looking narrow-minded and ignorant to everyone else.
4. You're disorganized. You can find what you need and that's all that matters. Not true! That messy desk, overflowing filing cabinet, and cluttered notebook create perceptions about you and your capabilities. Others see you as unreliable, untrustworthy, and, depending on the state of things, possibly infectious. Personalize your system all you want, but if you're trying to look professional, you've got to keep a clean, orderly workspace.
It's worthwhile noting that this isn't just an image thing; organization will help improve your performance as well. It reduces the chance of misplacing documents, missing deadlines, and losing vital information, plus it provides a much-needed sense of control, allowing you to more easily keep your composure when things get stressful.
5. You get emotional. If difficult conversations lead to tears and disagreements end in angry outbursts, it's time to embrace your inner pro. Emotions are only natural, but professionals know how to manage them responsibly in the workplace. Amateurs let them run amok and, as a result, they can appear irrational and unpredictable.
Emotions have a way of tainting our perspective and contaminating the decision-making process. When emotions are stirred up, exercise extreme caution over your words and actions. You don't have to pretend you're a robot, but learn how to channel your emotions productively in the professional environment and find ways to give yourself the private space you need to let them go.
Ready to up your professional game? There's nothing stopping you. Start with these tips and you'll quickly feel a difference—and the people around you will notice an impressive difference as well.
Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a nourishing life experience. As a career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.