Although there are certain aspects of professionalism that can’t be taught, here are some helpful tips to become more professional. Don’t necessarily think of these tips as “rules,” but as things to consider when you’re in a professional environment.
At the workplace:
Always arrive on time, and know that on time means arriving 10 minutes early.
Dress to impress. Even if your employer shows up to the interview in jeans, don’t take this as a suggestion to dress casually. Until you’ve started working at the company or organization and are told it is acceptable to dress down, maintain business professional attire.
Don’t call in sick or ask for vacation any time soon. Especially during an interview process or when you’ve just started a new job, never ask for time off unless it’s an absolute emergency. A good guideline is to wait at least six months before taking a sick day or vacation time. Some professionals recommend waiting a year.
Don’t bring your phone into an interview. This is the smartest choice when headed into an interview — you never want to risk having your phone ring. If you absolutely cannot live without it, check and double check that your phone is turned off. Now is also a good time to eliminate that Justin Bieber ring tone.
Offer and be willing to take on extra tasks. When you’re new and want your employer to know you’re a hard worker, offer to take on tasks that haven’t been asked of you yet. However, don’t take on so many extra tasks that it affects your ability to complete already assigned work.
Be nice to everyone you encounter. This means being polite to everyone, even the receptionist and the janitor. You never know who or when someone will comment about you and your attitude.
Be available. This applies to both communication (phone and email) and scheduling appointments. If you want to show an employer you’re accountable, respond to phone calls and emails as soon as possible. If a company can’t get a hold of you, someone else might get your job. Secondly, if an employer is trying to schedule an interview or appointment, be available and try to plan around their convenience.
Leave your personal problems at home. Just because someone asks about your day does not mean you should unload your problems. That’s not what you’re getting paid for. Get back to work.
Try to avoid using “um” and “uh” — it’s OK to stop and think. Take a second to process before responding — especially in an interview setting. Say, “Let me think about that,” before answering a difficult question. You’ll appear much more credible by pausing instead of letting out a long “uh.”
Proofread every email you send. Your email might be the first impression a future employer has of you, so avoid errors.
Have a professional email address. Yes, back in the day “cuteboyzrule@[insert outdated email service here].com” was really cool, but now that you’re an adult, stick to the name your mother gave you. Choose an email with minimal spam and advanced capabilities to help you manage online calendars, document sharing and space (such as Gmail).
Send your résumé as a PDF to avoid formatting or program problems, unless otherwise specified.
Maintain professional social media accounts. Monitor your privacy settings but know there’s always the possibility of someone getting past those settings. Your pictures and posts are on the Internet, after all. The New York Times article, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting” can help explain the permanent consequences the Internet can have.
Follow the companies you may want to work for in the future. You spend plenty of time on Facebook and/or Twitter, and it only takes seconds to “Like” or “Follow” to show interest in a company.
Link personal social media sites for search engine optimization. By linking the social media you use (such as adding your Twitter to your LinkedIn account), you can create one cohesive online presence. This is especially helpful for people with common names.