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How to appear professional at work?

How to appear professional at work?Barring certain geniuses whose eccentricities are well-accepted in their work environment, the rest of us plebeians don’t always have the luxury to present ourselves in our own whimsical manner at work. Sometimes, our professional world demands a certain level of decorum by way of how we look, speak, or behave, in a work-place.

You are generally expected to leave your personal life at home, while cloaking your personality with a professional veneer. But this separation is not always easily achieved and there could be days, however, when you may need reminders to maintain your workplace persona. What must you then do to meet the standard of professional appearance, and conduct? In this article, we will talk about the pointers to keep in mind, and how they may impact other’s perception of you, especially when you are in the company of your company!

For further insight, here are the list of key skills for managers and employees.

How to present yourself at work?


Dress the part

Corporate culture is quite vividly tied into what corporate employees are expected to wear. Buttoned up shirts, tie, and suit, are usually the norms for men, with some equally formal version appropriated for women. The reason, behind these dress-codes, is simple. This appearance is mandated to keep the employee focus limited to work and make the staff appear uniform, disciplined even. But, quite frankly, it is not as widespread as one might be led to believe. The Google, or Facebook, type casual workplace is largely accepted in many organizations.
The idea is to judge the norm by taking a cue from your colleagues, especially the ones in your immediate department. And when you have a fair idea, just take the baseline and add a touch of your personal style to it, keeping the overall theme modest. What does that mean practically? Let your individuality peek through but make sure to keep the overall look subtle and understated. If your personal style favors Govinda’s yellow pants and purple shirts, you should consider toning it down to beige and blue instead.
There are a few easy no-nos when it comes to your dressing style. Formal, or casual, it is best to avoid anything ornate, loud, ill-fitted, or indiscreet. Just stick to the code, make it your own, and follow a style that makes you, and everyone else you work with, comfortable.

Avoid tardiness

Needless to say, a disregard for punctuality is an undesirable trait in anyone. Part of the secret of appearing professional is to respect the machinery that produces results. And delays have no place in them. So, a lack of punctuality spells out your total lack respect for the routine that your workplace thrives on.

However, what can you do if you are faced with unavoidable situations that eat into your schedule? Family circumstances and sometimes even the daily commute can become potential reasons for repeated delays. Take, for instance, working parents who begin their day before sunrise, tending to their kids needs and often getting pushed into the uncomfortable side of their commute-time, to work. And if you happen to live beyond a hop, and a skip, away from your workplace, you may be subjected to traffic delays, pacing your life close to a snail’s. If you cannot avoid repeated misses to appointments, and meetings, it is best to not rush and run to work.

Speak with your manager and inform them of your situation. That way, you will never have to come up with excuses and will only need to make sure you are able to devise a system that sees to all your priorities, including work.

Read about time management skills.

Politically correct

Your professional world is not a place to express prejudicial opinions on race, region, religion, and gender. Why? You don’t want to make inappropriate comments in the off chance that you say something offensive to someone. We get it. We are humans and we all have certain presumptions about everyone else. Why else would sexist jokes be so popular and eagerly passed around, on say, Whatsapp? But your personal thoughts, and reservations, should be kept at the door before you step on the office floor. Well, ideally, the best scenario is a broad mind and letting loose of any preconceived notions on anybody. But let’s get real and take baby steps towards maturity.

So, avoid them and if you find yourself in the company of someone taking jabs at the expense of someone else’s sensitivity, make it clear that you don’t care for juvenile hilarity or contentious, and polarizing, opinions. Do you really need to tell that joke about women drivers during your office lunch? Are you eight? As long as you are clear about your boundaries, no one else is going to knowingly breach it. Broaden your mind and widen your professional scope.

If, however, you feel threatened or harassed, at work, take it up with the higher-ups and even take legal action if the problem doesn’t receive its due justice. Read this article on workplace harassment problems of women in India and how to deal with them.

The art of articulation

Your words speak about your confidence. Your volume speaks about your temperament. Follow an air of self-assured calmness. Professionals should exude a sense of reliability about them which is definitely defeated if you raise your temper at the drop of a staple. Clarity in speech makes it impossible for anyone to misconstrue your intentions.

Read Interpersonal Skills at Work

Rumor has it

…that no one trusts the office gossip monger. Again, as long as human nature prevails, so will the whispers and water cooler chat about who’s getting axed, who’s dating who, and who’s secretly angling to put on the boss’s hat? Entertaining, as they may be, idle gossips like these tend to undermine the gravity of one’s ability to be taken seriously.

If you ever find yourself, unwittingly, part of a conversation, not based on facts but innuendos, excuse yourself and walk out. If you happen to find yourself to be the topic of said rumor, ignore it. Just be calm, unfettered, and blow it away as idle gossip. Chances are that the rumor feeders will realize how unsubstantiated the rumor is, from your reaction. If the problem persists, escalate it to the mighty authorities.

Read How to deal with office politics?

Stay updated

Part of being professional is to stay relevant in your role. If you get too comfortable and let the learning opportunities pass by, you will stagnate. If you wish to continue to grow in your career, it is always a desirable trait to be motivated to do better and bigger. Keep adding professional training to your skillset and make it a business of yours to network with all your colleagues, both old and new (Read Professional Networking Tips).

Your entire career is a journey to learn and unlearn various skills. Allow yourself to be humble enough to listen to new ideas, even from the so-called rookies at work. The inexperienced often have a fresh skill to offer, often phased out in the experienced worker. Volunteer to take on additional work and exhibit a can-do professional attitude. Trust us, these will not go unnoticed, just like your Mickey Mouse tie!

Respect your professional space

There is a whole world of accessibility afforded by virtue of our online social presence. Just keep in mind to keep your professional environment social media free, unless of course your work requires so of you. For similar reasons, refrain from letting your personal calls capture your work time. If you really have to pick up your mom’s call in the middle of the work day, just excuse yourself and head to the nearest restroom. Keep your conversations short and low. You don’t want your grocery list up on the office notice board, do you?
If these suggestions seem hackneyed versions of things you already know, good for you. If they seem enlightening, adopt them and find ways to spin your own individuality within what is expected. The appearance, of being professional, is after all about creating a sense of reliability about you, as an employee. The motivation to look professional will only help you to stay professional and honest to your job!

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Rakhi Acharyya
About Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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