Forming a reputation of professionalism early on will open doors and strengthen your connections as you progress in your career. Acting professionally will help you earn the respect and trust of others, and get raises and promotions. Follow these 9 tips to become a more professional employee.
1. Have a professional portfolio
No matter what field you’re in, you can benefit from having a professional portfolio. It could come in handy in job interviews, salary negotiations and promotions, performance reviews, and any situation in which you need to have tangible proof of your professional value. Clearly, this will vary depending on your industry, profession, and experience. Therefore, include whatever you can that showcases your skills, abilities, and achievements and that makes sense for you. Here are some ideas:
- Samples of your work
- Awards and recognitions
- Resume/professional bio
- Client feedback
- List of trainings, courses completed, certifications, key accomplishments, etc.
- Letters of recommendation
- Project outlines or write-ups
2. Avoid these writing mistakes
While the occasional grammatical error will not ruin your reputation, people notice others’ writing and judge their professionalism based on it. Don’t let your boss, clients, or colleagues catch you making these mistakes.
- Don’t write too casually: Err on the side of formality in your writing. Avoid slang, abbreviations, incomplete sentences, nicknames, etc.
- Avoid passive voice: Stick to the more authoritative, direct active voice. While passive isn’t technically grammatically wrong, it can seem vague and awkward.
- Keep the excitement to a minimum: Don’t overuse exclamation points, and avoid smiley faces and emoticons. They come across as unprofessional and don’t make you sound intelligent.
- Don’t leave the subject line blank: Write a clear, succinct subject line for all emails you send.
- Excessive spelling errors: Show your professionalism by spelling words correctly. Use spell check and double-check spellings when in doubt. Same goes for grammar!
3. Have a professional headshot pic
Everyone should have a professional headshot picture to use on your LinkedIn profile, your professional portfolio, and more. The best part is that you can take one at home for free.
However, this picture needs to be a quality image. Use a high quality camera in good lighting (use diffused natural light, NOT flash). Wear professional clothing and stand in front of a solid background, like a plain wall. Get someone else to take the picture or use a tripod, but whatever you do, don’t take a selfie.
4. Create an awesome email signature
A quality email signature is a quick and easy way to make you look more professional. Make one once and you’re done!
Your signature should include your name, position, company, and 2-3 ways to contact you (don’t go overboard with contact information). Consider including links to your website and social media profiles (assuming you’ve kept them professional), especially LinkedIn. You could also attach your professional headshot pic. However, be sure to avoid quotes and any other images or links to other sites; these don’t belong in a good email signature.
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to make a good one. Check out the tool NEWOLDSTAMP that will help you design a nice email signature for free. Signature Maker, Mail-Signatures.com, and ZippyPixels’ customizable signature templates provide free, customizable templates you could use as well.
5. Be punctual
Few things make you look more unprofessional than showing up late. Make it a habit to always be on time or a few minutes early. This includes when you get to work in the morning, come back from lunch break, arrive to meetings, etc. If in the rare case of emergency it is unavoidable, notify the appropriate person/people. Don’t leave anyone hanging.
6. Dress well
Dressing well doesn’t necessarily mean you always need to be in a suit and tie. However, it does mean maintaining a tidy appearance, paying attention to your personal hygiene, and following your organization’s dress code. With whatever guidelines you are given, avoid looking lazy or extreme; first impressions are formed by appearance and can be hard to change. For a detailed guide on business dress, click here.
7. Separate personal time and work time
Everyone has a life outside of their jobs. However, keep a healthy work/life balance and don’t let your personal matters impact your work. Your coworkers and clients don’t need to see or hear your personal business. To break it down a bit, make your necessary personal calls outside, do your personal internet browsing during your lunch hour, and don’t take your family problems out on your coworkers. Of course, everyone is human and it can be difficult to completely disconnect when tragic life events occur—but try to do your best to keep work at work and home at home.
8. Be kind and polite
Treat others with kindness and respect, even if you don’t like them. You’re not always going to like your coworkers or clients, and that’s just life. However, you will come across as much more professional if you treat everyone cordially, avoid gossip and drama, and make politeness a habit.
9. Be reliable
Last but definitely not least, be a reliable employee. Always follow company policies, get your work done on time, do your job well, and follow through when you commit to doing things. Make a to-do list if that’s helpful to you, use a calendar to keep track of commitments, and work efficiently to stay on top of things. Be someone that people trust and can depend on.