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Last Updated on August 20, 2020

How to Be More Professional at Work and Make a Good Impression

How to Be More Professional at Work and Make a Good Impression

Any job you do, even those where you are able to work from a home office, requires being professional, whether it’s through how you dress, how you speak, or how you act. The best way to work is by paying attention to your level of professionalism. It will earn you a great deal of positive interactions with your boss and coworkers. 

Being more professional day to day in the office can help you in many ways. You can gain respect from others, and it can help with being promoted. Here are nine tips you can apply to help you be more professional in the office.

1. Consider the Dress Code

There’s usually a dress code set for a workplace. This is different for men and women, and it can be different for each company. To remain a professional person in the office, I would suggest dressing above the dress code. Let me explain what I mean by this.

If a company has a dress code that states employees must at least wear pants and a collared shirt in the office, then I would suggest wearing suit pants and a dress shirt. It meets the criteria, but it’s a little more professional.

You could add to this by even wearing a suit jacket. If the standard is suit pants and a dress shirt, add a tie or a suit jacket. This will make you stand out in a good way, as someone who is professional and respects the company they work for.

If you are a woman and the company you work for suggest a dress or skirt, you can always discuss this with your boss if you prefer to wear dress pants. Most companies will be flexible with this, so don’t be afraid to ask!

2. Work More Than the Minimum Hours

Most offices usually have a minimum working time period. This is the time that you should arrive to work by, and leave work after, at the end of the day. One way to improve your professionalism is to work longer than those hours.

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The ability to do this will depend on your commitments outside of work. I’m not suggesting you need to work ten or twelve hour days. Even adding an extra ten or twenty minutes to your day will help others perceive you as more professional and passionate about your job, which is a good thing.

Arriving before the required start time and leaving after the required end time will make it seem like you’re not watching the clock and are actually trying to improve at your job. When you do arrive early or leave late, don’t spend a lot of time sitting idly. Stay productive and focus on important tasks to create an even better impression.

If you’re still not convinced, this article talks about why it makes sense to arrive early when you have the opportunity to do so: 6 Reasons Why it Makes Sense to Arrive Early.

3. Maintain a Professional Attitude

Being professional at work is not just about arriving on time and dressing appropriately. It’s also about how you act. The things you say and actions you take can define how professional you seem at the office. You can act however you like outside the office, but to remain professional at work, it’s a good idea to keep a professional attitude[1].

This means what you think about and what you say should be considerate of your work environment. Try to refrain from offensive jokes and stories about drinking and partying on the weekend. Keep your focus on work while you’re there, and you’ll be perceived as being more professional.

Also, do your best to avoid talking down to your coworkers. If you feel they could improve or be more professional, try to suggest this in a respectful way or even through a professionally written email.

4. Arrive on Time to Meetings

Meetings at work are common. While they are often boring or seem to be useless, they still exist and can be helpful for team discussions. Meetings are scheduled for a certain time, and, depending on the subject, they can be quite important. Nobody likes to have their time wasted, and one of the biggest time wasters is not being able to start a meeting because people haven’t arrived yet.

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When you go to meetings, make an effort to arrive by the scheduled start time. This is to show respect to people you’re meeting with and not to waste time. Take into account any travel time you need, and any time you need to set up in the meeting, such as with phone conferences.

To go the extra mile, arrive four or five minutes early[2]. It will show your enthusiasm and your level of respect for your coworkers and your boss. It will also give you a moment to get yourself set up for the meeting without disturbing others.

This also applies to online meetings. If an online call is set for 3:00, enter the platform at 2:55. When the boss sees you’re early to arrive, you’ll make a great impression.

5. Separate Personal Time and Work Time

We’ve all got things happening outside of work. It’s part of keeping a healthy work/life balance. However, we should try to limit the impact that they have on our workplace in order to be professional.

Whether this is organizing an event, speaking to friends, or dealing with problems, it’s good to try and keep it separate from your work. It’s not something that other people need to see or hear you doing.

Step away from your desk if you need to make or receive a personal call. Try to limit your personal Internet browsing to lunch times, or leave it until you get home if you can. Try not to get on social media during the day if possible. If you need to print documents for personal use, try to do it at home or somewhere else if possible.

It is more respectful if you’re not wasting company time to do your own things, even if it is only for a short time. Your work space is for work.

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6. Consider Your Personal Grooming

A good way to improve your professionalism at work is to be considerate of your personal grooming and how it’s perceived at the office. Regardless of your feelings and thoughts towards grooming, other people may not feel the same way, and there is a generalization or perception about some of these things.

Men should aim to be clean shaven or have a maintained beard. Messy stubble or an untrimmed beard can look unprofessional and lazy. Keeping short hair is a good suggestion, as long hair can also look lazy to other people. For women, some basic make-up and neat hair is usually ok.

More and more workplaces are relaxing standards on things such as hair length, tattoos, etc., but this doesn’t mean you should let your personal grooming go completely. Show your personal style, but do it in a way that recognizes that you know how to be professional at the office.

7. Have a Professional Phone Greeting

How you answer your phone says a lot about your attitude to work. Your greeting is the first thing that people hear when they call you, and you want to make a good impression on them. There are better ways to answer your phone than “Yeah?” or “Hello.”

Try adding your name in there, as well as a greeting. Something like “Hello, Rob speaking” or “Good afternoon, this is Sally” is appropriate, professional, and not too long.

Your outgoing phone greeting should also send a good image. When you call someone, they will greet you, and you should have some kind of greeting back to start the conversation. Starting with a “Hello” and adding a reason for the call is a good place to start.

8. Use an Appropriate Email Signature

We all use email as part of our jobs. It’s an effective form of communication if used correctly. At the bottom of any email you send is your email signature. Setting one up that is effective and professional is a good suggestion.

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You should have your name, position, company, and contact details, such as email and phone numbers. This is quite common and standard for a signature.

There are other things you might see on signatures that don’t really belong there, and you shouldn’t use them either. Memorable or funny quotes, images, links to other sites, or advice aren’t necessary, and you don’t need to put anything like that on your signature.

9. Put Your Mobile Phone on Silent

Our phones are with us for most of the day, either in our pockets or on our desk. A good way to be seen as more professional is to have your phone on silent or vibrate mode at work.

You might have what you think is the greatest ringtone in the world, but others may disagree. Ringtones, especially loud ones, can be distracting and even annoying to others. Keeping it on silent or vibrate can make you look more considerate and professional at the office.

If the phone is next to you or in your pocket, turning off the ringtone will still mean you know when the phone is ringing. You can see the screen light up or hear the vibration on the desk. Having a ringtone go off in the office is just another distraction people don’t really need.

Final Thoughts

Paying attention to how professional you are at the office can go a long way in improving the level of respect your coworkers and boss have for you. Doing good work is a great start, and professionalism is the icing on the cake. Be conscientious and considerate; you’ll be amazed how far it gets you.

More on How to Be Professional

Featured photo credit: Hunters Race via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Career Trend: Displaying a Professional Attitude
[2] The Business Journals: 10 advantages to arriving early to meetings

More by this author

Ben Brumm

Ben is a business analyst and software developer. He shares career advice on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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