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In a work environment that has become increasingly competitive, many professionals are constantly looking for ways to enhance and advance their careers. Many turn to education and training while others seek to expand their networks. But the single most important factor that will determine how far you get in your career is your level of professionalism. The way in which you conduct yourself in the workplace and the manner in which you communicate with others will be the key to your success and determine the level which you will achieve. By polishing your professional image you will sending out the signals that you are a reliable and dependable team player who is ready to take the next step in their career.  


Practicing professionalism is often taken for granted and at times overlooked. Learning and managing these “soft skills” does require a bit of effort and self-control, but will serve you well in the future. Workplace professionalism enhances others’ perceptions of you and can get you noticed and promoted. The following are a few areas to discuss with your mentoring partner:


Appearance does matter. What you wear and how you keep yourself up is important. Managers pay close attention to how you present and carry yourself.


How do I come to work each day?

Am I dressed too casually for the office?

Does my personal style stand out or distract?  


Silence the social media. As social media is a great way to stay connected and a way of life for many, overuse during the workday may not put you in the best possible light. Unless you are working on the organization’s social media site, tweeting, posting, and texting takes away from your focus and productivity – and the boss does notice.


How often to I really pick up my device during the course of the day?

Do I find myself constantly checking posts and tweets?

Do I respond to them?

Do I talk or text often throughout the day?


Watch what you tweet. Kind words will lift you up and disparaging remarks will bring you down – way down. When you do put something out there, make sure that it is positive and does not reveal “too much information.”


Do I use my social media accounts to say what is on my mind?

Do I measure every tweet or post I make?

Am I aware of others who make regularly make disparaging comments?

Do I stay clear of them? Or do I add a thought or two?

Use your time wisely. When managers assign tasks, they expect them to be completed in a timely manner. Meeting deadlines and due dates gives the perception that you are competent and responsible.


Do I make a concerted effort to meet and/or beat deadlines and due dates?

Or do I put some projects on the back burner?

Do I notify my supervisor when a specific deadline may not be realistic?


Punctuality is a must. Showing up for work on-time and attending mandatory meetings is a requirement of your job and highly regarded by management. Being punctual is associated with dependability which is a strong leadership indicator.


Am I on-time for work and meetings?

Or am I nonchalant about when I arrive and leave?

Are my hours and arrival times consistent?


Replace any sense of entitlement with hard work. Your supervisors, managers and mentors have worked very hard to get where they are today and believe that diligence and productivity pay off. Self-confidence is great attribute to have, but assuming that promotions are automatic is an unrealistic expectation.    


Do I feel as though I should be rewarded and promoted with-in a certain time frame?

Do I think that my work is more important than that of others?

Am I a good team player?

Do I share in both the hard work and success of my team?


Sharpen all of your communication skills. Every facet of your communication style is important. Verbal and written communications as well as body language play a vital role in how you are perceived. The manner in which you interact with others is equally important. 


Am I personable with my colleagues and managers?

Is my body language consistent with my words?

Do I communicate effectively?

How are my written skills?

Do I use proper grammar?

Do I always check for spelling and proper punctuation in my correspondence?

How do I interact with others?

Am I calm and collected when dealing with difficult people?

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Tags: career, communications, human resources, jobs, leadership, miscellaneous


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Comment by Kathy Wentworth Drahosz on September 19, 2013 at 2:38pm

You bring up a good point Jaime about the manner in which we handle adversity. Many times folks get caught in the heat of the moment and forget about the perception that they are giving to others – especially management. Just one instance of poor behavior can really derail a career.  Composure and self-restraint are very important “soft skills” that have a tremendous impact on perceptions and reputations. Holding one’s tongue can actually impress a boss or manager. Individuals who can keep their composure in an escalating situation are often complemented by those around them. What a great way to get noticed!

Comment by Kathy Wentworth Drahosz on September 19, 2013 at 2:38pm

Thanks for your response Andrew. I agree with you about social media being both a necessity and a job enhancement. Many organizations are increasingly their reliability on these media outlets to advertise, communicate and reach out. When used professional manner, social media can provide a number of great resources to increase productivity and expand networks.

I particularly like your advice about letting supervisors and managers know how you are using these sites. Not only does it justify use of them, it can also offer the manager or supervisor another resource to help with their own communications and productivity.     

Comment by Jaime Gracia on September 12, 2013 at 6:30pm

How you handle adversity is also important. I have been through some very difficult situations where yelling vulgarities at the other parties was not only warranted, but no one would have blamed me if I did.

Nonetheless, things like that always come back and haunt you. As a wise mentor once told me, you can never take the bullet back after you fire the weapon. Best never to unholster it in the first place. Take a deep breath, and never lose your professionalism or composure. Many people only remember the tirade or reaction, and not what precipitated the reaction.

Comment by Andrew Krzmarzick on September 12, 2013 at 10:49am

The two notes on social media are particularly timely, Kathy.

Perception is everything. If a boss comes up and sees someone checking Facebook (or on their cell phone texting, as you said), it's a red flag. It erodes trust and makes the boss wonder, "I wonder how much they're doing that." That suspicion simmers and if your colleagues aren't doing it, you could risk being compared and perceived as less productive ("how much more could they get done if they weren't doing that?"). Good to err on the side of caution there and limit social media at work.

The only caveat I'd have: if you're using social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, GovLoop) to ask questions and get quick answers or insights that help you do your job better, then talk with your supervisor! Tell them, "Hey, I know you might see me checking Twitter, GovLoop, etc. during the day, and I wanted to show you how it has helped me to be more effective and productive. You'd assigned me a particular task and I was able to use it to find a template that was used in another agency - which allowed me to get that project done much more quickly, using a best practice from someone who'd been successful." That kind of open communication builds trust and demonstrates your commitment.

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