Professionalism is of utmost importance at the workplace. It is the key to being entrusted with more and more responsibilities and moving up the corporate ladder.

Unfortunately, many people confuse being a professional with having a college degree and dressing in a suit and tie. Being professional is more than that.

It entails a set of traits that make you come across as competent, respectful and reliable. It is about how you conduct yourself when interacting with clients and colleagues. It is about being at home in your chosen profession.

Most of all, being a professional is about giving others the confidence that they can actually trust you to do what you are supposed to do. 

The good thing is that anyone can learn how to look more professional and thus increase their chances of success in the corporate world.

In this article, we look at 20+ simple habits that will make you look more professional.

Let’s dive in.

1. BE ORGANIZED

It is impossible to look professional without being organized. Imagine your boss asking you for an important document, but you can’t seem to remember where you placed it. As you rummage through your drawers searching for the document, your boss will probably be wondering what kind of incompetent idiot he hired.

Being organized means you know what you are supposed to be doing at any particular moment. It means you know the tasks that need to be prioritized or delegated.

It means you know the emails that need to be acted on and which ones you are yet to read. It means that you can quickly locate any documents you need to do your work.

Being organized improves your productivity and makes you more efficient, which in turn makes you look more professional. Employees who are well organized are also more likely to receive promotions.

To become more organized, start by decluterring your desk and arranging your files so that you can easily find what you need. Ensure that the documents on your files are well organized and can be easily accessed.

Ensure your email is organized. Use a planner or a to-do list to keep track of everything that needs to be done to ensure you don’t miss deadlines. Take notes of important things that are brought to your attention.

These little things will make you better at your work, which will in turn make you come across as more professional.

2. PUNCTUALITY

Nothing screams unprofessionalism like someone who does not know how to manage their time. If you want to be look professional, you will need to become better at managing time.

This means arriving to work on time, being in time for any meetings you need to attend and notifying the manager in case you think you will be late because of one reason or the other.

Being a good time manager means being aware of your deadlines and managing your work to ensure you meet the deadlines. It also means respecting other people’s time and being punctual for your appointments.

3. DRESS THE PART

Dressing appropriately is an important part of looking professional, and is among one of the major things most people think of when they think about looking professional.

The truth is that most people will judge you based on your appearance, which means how you dress is an extension of the company’s brand.

Therefore, you need to ensure that you dress professionally. Picture this; if you went to hire a financial manager and found someone dressed in a t-shirt, sweatpants and slippers, would you entrust him with your money?

Not likely.

However, if the person was well dressed in a suit and tie, you would have no problem giving him the power to make financial decisions for you. Dressing professionally also increases your confidence and makes more comfortable even in new or tough situations.

Luckily, many offices have a dress code, so it is unlikely that you will come to the office in your pajamas. Even if your office does not have a dress code, it is best to stick to official clothing.

Showing up in a t-shirt and jeans will likely earn you a trip to the boss’s office.

4. BE RELIABLE

Professional people are dependable. Being reliable means clients and colleagues know that they can trust you to do what you said you will do, when you said you will do it. It means being consistent with your work. Being reliable also means that you can step in and save the day when things are not going as they should.

Most of all, being reliable means not giving people any unwanted surprises, such as going missing on the day you were supposed to make an important presentation. Showing that you are reliable will help you have better relationships with your colleagues. You are also less likely to be laid off when your boss knows you are dependable.

Finally, if you show you can be relied on, you are more likely to get great recommendations once you decide to move.

5. BE A GOOD COMMUNICATOR

To be seen as someone who is professional, you need to be a good communicator. The workplace requires you to constantly interact with clients, colleagues and your superiors. The better you are at communicating with these people, the more professional you will appear.

To be a good communicator, you need to be a good listener.

You need to learn how to communicate clearly and concisely. Communicating professionally does not mean using complicated words and jargon that will leave everyone confused. Instead, you should use simply language to ensure everyone understands what you are trying to say. Communication at work is not restricted to verbal communication.

Being a good communicator also means communicating effectively through written communication/emails and responding promptly to such communication from others.

Good communication is so important that a number of studies – including this LinkedIn analysis, this university research, this business survey and this employability study – have found it to be one of the most importance traits for employability.

6. CONFIDENCE

It is impossible to look professional when you don’t have self-confidence. Actually, according to this survey, there is a strong link between confidence and occupational success. Confidence is a state of mind where you know what you are doing, what you are good at and what you stand for.

Confidence also involves acting in a manner that shows others you know what you are doing. Confidence makes you look professional for a number of reasons. If you are confident, you won’t be afraid to share your ideas and opinions. You won’t be afraid to take up challenges and responsibilities. Y

ou won’t be afraid to make decisions or take risks at the workplace. In addition, others are more likely to believe in you when they can see that you believe in yourself. 

7. BE ACCOUNTABLE

If you want to look professional, you should be accountable for your actions at all times. This means that you should place responsibility to get things done on yourself. If you are unable to get things done on time or if you make mistakes, own your mistake and find ways to fix it.

If you notice things going wrong, don’t be afraid to bring it to your boss’s attention and propose ways to fix it. People who are not accountable will often look for people or things to blame whenever they make mistakes.

Looking for scapegoats every time you screw things up will make you look unprofessional and will affect your workplace relationships with your colleagues and superiors.

8. MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

Professional people are always positive and motivated in whatever they do. Having a positive attitude means that you are willing to keep pushing even when things are not going as they should. It means that you are always upbeat about the work you need to do.

Positive people are willing to look for solutions and will motivate others to give their all at work. Positive people are also more receptive to feedback and criticism.

Instead of getting angry when they are given negative feedback, positive people use it as an opportunity to learn and improve themselves.

Positive people are easier to work with, which in turn makes your colleagues and bosses view you as someone who is professional.

9. BE RESPECTFUL

Being a professional requires you to treat everyone equally and with respect. Regardless of your position within the company, you should be respectful to everyone, whether they are senior or junior to you. You should remain respectful even in situations where you do not agree with your colleagues.

For instance, even if you feel that your boss is an airhead who does not know what she is doing, you should keep your opinion to yourself. Talking bad about your superiors behind their backs will only make you seem jealous, immature and unprofessional – the complete opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Similarly, you should avoid being rude to others, belittling their intelligence or giving them sarcastic remarks, even if you think what they are saying makes no sense. Being respectful also means that you should respect company policies, even if you feel they don’t make sense.

10. WILLINGNESS TO TAKE CHARGE

If you want to look like a real professional, you should be willing to step up and take charge, even when the situations is outside your comfort zone. Is there a presentation that needs to be made yet no one is willing to volunteer? Step up and volunteer to make the presentation. Has a mistake been made?

Take charge and rectify it, even if you did not make the mistake. Does your team need to do something yet the team leader is not around? Step up and get the team started instead of waiting till the team leader arrives.

The willingness to take charge, especially in times of crisis will go a great way in establishing you as a professional.

11. STOP WHINING

Have you ever worked next to someone who is always complaining? One minute he is complaining about how he is being overworked, the next minute he is complaining about how useless a certain colleague is, and right after he gets into another monologue about he is being underpaid.

How does it feel working with such a colleague? Such a person drains your energy, and if you could, you would have them transferred to another floor or department.

Well, if you want to look professional, avoid such behaviors. Stop whining or complaining incessantly. This only makes you look immature.

Sure, you might feel that you are being underpaid, but how will complaining to your colleague improve your pay? If you honestly feel that you are being underpaid, go talk to your boss and ask him for a raise.

In addition, there is a saying that walls have ears. Your whining about how useless the boss is might reach him, landing you in a lot of trouble.

12. BE HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY

Being honest and trustworthy is another set of traits that will make you look more professional, especially in today’s world where people are so used to lying. According to a study at the University of Massachusetts, more than 60% of people will tell a lie in a ten minute conversation.

With so many people being to lying, being honest can really make you stand out. Being honest also makes it easier for people to trust you and to forgive you whenever you make a mistake. For instance, if you make a mistake and own up to it, your supervisor will accept your honesty and will be more likely to let it slide.

They are also more likely to trust you with something else in future compared to someone who tried to lie about their mistake. Honesty also means being truthful with what you can do. Don’t promise to do something when you know you won’t do it, thereby inconveniencing other people.

13. AVOID OFFICE GOSSIP

Every office has a gossip mill, and it can be very easy to get sucked into it. However, if you want to remain professional, you should avoid it at all costs. Avoid talking about others behind their backs or spreading rumors around the office. The thing with gossip is that it eventually gets to the person being discussed, thereby ruining workplace relationships.

This is not something you want if your aim is to remain professional. Concentrating on your work and performance while ignoring any gossip that might be doing rounds in the office shows you are a mature and focused person. Not engaging in gossip also shows that you are someone who respects his colleagues

14. BE ETHICAL IN YOUR WORK

Professionalism goes together with ethics. Being ethical is about how you conduct yourself at work. It is about doing the right thing at all times and being a person of integrity. It is about striving to achieve excellence in whatever you do while holding the interests of your clients at heart.

For instance, let’s assume that you are an automotive parts salesman. Your manager pays you a bonus every time you sell parts from a certain brand, but you know that they are inferior compared to another brand. Which brand would you sell to a customer who asks you to recommend to a good brand?

As a professional, you should recommend the superior brand, even if it does not come with a fat bonus, instead of getting the bonus and having the customer come for a replacement because you sold them an inferior part.

15. KEEP YOURSELF KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY

As a professional, you should be aware of the latest trends and practices within your field of work. Knowing the latest news about your industry not only positions you as a professional, but also makes it easier for you to do your work and allows you to stand out to your management by proposing solutions and new methods of doing business during company meetings.

To keep abreast of the latest news in your industry, you should make a habit of reading widely about your field. Follow major blogs related to your field, read industry magazines and attend industry events.

16. LEARN TO TAKE FEEDBACK AND ACT ON IT

It is normal for your supervisor or boss to give you feedback on your performance at work. How you receive this feedback and what you do with it will determine whether you are seen as a professional or not. If you want to be seen as a professional, you should treat feedback as an opportunity for you to learn and improve.

Sure, getting negative feedback is not easy. However, you should resist the temptation to get angry or defensive. Keep in mind that the feedback is not about your personality, but rather about your work and performance.

By giving you negative feedback, your superior is actually giving you pointers on how to perform better at work. Remaining objective when you receive negative feedback and working on the areas that need improvement not only makes you appear more professional, it also makes you a better performer, boosting your professionalism even further. 

17. ADOPT A PROFESSIONAL BODY LANGUAGE

Professionalism is also conveyed by the kind of body language you portray when interacting with others. With studies showing that more 60% of communication takes place non-verbally, you should adopt body language that shows you are a professional who believes in himself and knows what he is doing.

Look at some of the people who are considered most successful in their fields and watch their body language. Do you notice anything? Professionals display confident body language.

You can also look more professional by adopting confident body language. Below are some tips on how to display professional body language.

  • Sit or stand upright. Avoid slouching
  • Always hold your head high.
  • Maintain eye contact when talking to someone.
  • Greet people with a firm handshake.
  • Use hand gestures when talking.

18. KEEP YOUR WORK AND PERSONAL LIFE SEPARATE

Just because you work at the same place does not mean that your colleagues are your personal friends. Therefore, you should not share too much information about your personal life with your coworkers or bosses. Don’t discuss issues to do with your family or medical issues with colleagues.

Keep the party you attended over the weekend to yourself, unless the colleague you are talking to is a personal friend you hang out with even when not at work. You should also watch out what you share on your social media profiles if you have friends from work.

For instance, you don’t want to share photos of an inebriated you if your boss is going to see them. Either watch what you post or avoid adding workmates to your social media circles.

A good idea is to stick to LinkedIn for professional connections and Facebook or Instagram for personal connections.

19. SET UP A PROFESSIONAL EMAIL SIGNATURE

Email is one of the major communication channels at work that everyone uses. However, what some might know is that your email is a reflection of you. If you want to appear more professional in your business communication, you should set up a professional signature for your email.

This shows that you take your job seriously and that this email is not one you use casually for everything, from sending memes to business communication. In addition, an email signature acts as a digital business card, providing the other person with the information they need in case they have to contact you in future.

A professional email signature should be short and concise. The information you need to include in your email signature include your name, job title, company, and your contact information such as email address and your phone number.

20. HAVE A PROFESSIONAL PHONE GREETING

The first thing you say when you answer your phone also influences whether you will be seen as a professional or not. You don’t want to answer your phone with a casual greeting like “hello?” or “Yes?”

Instead, try following up the greeting with your name. For instance, you could say, “Good morning, Greg speaking” or “Hello, this is Annette.” This will sound more professional and mature and will create a good impression to the person on the other end.

21. GO ABOVE AND BEYOND

Finally, if you want to be look like a professional who is capable and can be entrusted with even more responsibilities, you should be willing to go above and beyond in whatever you do.

Don’t just do what is required of you and sit back. Instead, once you have performed your required set of duties, anticipate things that need to be done and do them. 

If you have ideas that can improve efficiency or productivity, share them with your boss. If a colleague is overloaded with work, offer to help.

Doing more than is expected of you will not only make you look more professional, it will also get you noticed, meaning the boss will have you in mind when it’s time for someone to get promoted.

WRAPPING UP

Looking professional is good for your career. It helps you to stand out from your colleagues and makes it easier for you to go up the corporate ladder faster. While nobody is born a professional, the good thing is that it is something you can learn.

By following and implementing the tips shared in this article, you will be well on your way to looking more professional and impressing your boss, which will bring you closer to the success you want.

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