I’ve had some great guidance throughout my career. I recognize not every professional gets insight into the do’s and don’ts of the working world, which is why I’m sharing a list of some helpful behaviors I’ve learned that serve as great guideposts for career etiquette.
Here are 7 tips for professionals seeking to be professional:
1. Never disparage your boss.
I learned this one from a mentor. I came to him complaining one day about my boss and he shared that this was just a bad habit to get into. When you gossip about your boss to others, it does more damage to your career and professional reputation than you think. It shows to others that you lack loyalty. If you disagree with your manager, there are better, more constructive ways to manage this relationship than by talking bad about them behind their back.
2. Don’t be the first in the buffet line.
If at corporate events or routine lunch lines, you jockey to get to the buffet first, what you’re unintentionally showing to others that you’re looking out for #1. When I was a Marine, the guidance I received was that the most senior person on site eats last – the privilege of eating first in line always goes to the most junior person. It communicates that you’re prioritizing their well-being. Gestures like these don’t go unnoticed.
3. Show up at a meeting prepared.
If you want to communicate your respect to others, show up at meetings prepared and focused. Be rested, engaged, know the agenda, review any read-ahead materials, etc. This might seem like a small thing, but it makes a big difference. I facilitate meetings all the time – the most prepared individuals always make a strong, positive impression on their colleagues. If you want to be a standout, this is a simple discipline to embrace.
4. Don’t sit when being introduced to someone.
When you’re introduced to someone, stand up, shake their hand, look them in the eyes and express your gratitude for meeting them. It’s the little things that make a great first impression and communicate you are a professional. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this one violated, which kills me because it is just so easy to do!
5. Don’t waste your manager’s time … or others, for that matter.
We all value our time. You don’t like your time wasted and others don’t like theirs wasted, either. If you have a meeting with your manager, show up prepared. Don’t waste their time by being disorganized and/or rambling on. Have an agenda and know what you want to communicate and what questions you’d like addressed. Be intentional with how you want to present yourself to your manager in a face-to-face setting. You likely don’t see them often – make your moments with them impactful.
6. Kill the “yeah, but’s” …
No one likes to be in a room with someone who constantly says, “yeah, but … “ and then tells you why an idea won’t work. Any criticism without a recommendation is really just complaining. No one likes a professional complainer. If you feel strongly about something to offer criticism, find a way to champion your thoughts and offer a solution. I’ve always found it useful to replace “yeah, but” with “yeah, and.” This forces me to add to the conversation in a constructive way.
7. Thank you cards never go out of style.
If you really want to express your gratitude to someone, skip the email and write a handwritten note. This simple gesture can create a very positive impression. People don’t forget those who take the time to go above and beyond to express their appreciation.
These 7 habits can really help shape your professional reputation – I’m sure you’ve got a few habits that have served you well, too. I’d love to hear about them. Email me at email@example.com.