How to Appear Professional

Five Methods:Dressing ProfessionallyActing ProfessionallyKeeping Up AppearancesTreating Others WellMaintaining Your Skills

Appearing professional begins with dressing professionally. It doesn't end there, though. You also need to conduct yourself as a professional, keep up your appearances in other ways, and maintain your skills over time.

Method 1
Dressing Professionally

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    Know your office's dress code. Most offices will spell out their dress code for you. However, if they don't, take a look around when you interview. You should be able to gauge what's appropriate to wear to the office by what other people are wearing. For instance, if everyone is wearing a suit jacket, don't show up for work in jeans.[1]
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    Find your brands. It will make it easier for you to keep your wardrobe up if you find particular brands that work for you in your price range. Not every brand fits the same, nor does every style fit every person. Invest some time visiting different stores to find what you like up front, and then you won't have to spend as much time when you need to update your clothes later.[2]
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    Understand modesty is your friend. The office is not the place for short skits, low-cut blouses, tight pants, or halfway unbuttoned shirts, for men or women. Keep your clothes more modest, and you will be seen as a professional.[3]
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    Dress up more than you think you need to. This rule is true especially when you are meeting someone for the first time, being interviewed, or attending a big meeting, such as a press release or a meeting with an important client. If you overdress, you'll still be seen as professional, while if you under dress, you'll be seen as unprofessional. That doesn't mean you need to wear tails or a formal dress to a stockholder's meeting; however, you should try to wear your top professional clothing.[4]
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    Focus on the details. It's the details that put you over the top professionally. For instance, you may have a well-made suit, but if it's covered in dog hair, you're not going to look professional. In addition, you may have nice shoes, but if they're heavily scuffed up, it takes away from your appearance.[5]
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    Don't be afraid to add a little flair. You can add personal touches to your outfit and still be considered professional. Maybe you like a funny tie, or maybe you enjoy a pretty hair clip. As long as it's not too ostentatious, it's fine.[6]

Method 2
Acting Professionally

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    Show up on time. Being on time actually means making sure you're there a few minutes early in the morning, ready to work. Also, when you are supposed to attend meetings, always be on time.[7]
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    Take appropriate breaks. If you're supposed to take an hour lunch break, make sure you're back within the hour. Also, follow your break rules. If you're allowed 4 breaks a day at 10 minutes each, make sure to stick to that. It won't hurt you to take a few extra minutes every now and then, but don't make it a rule.[8]
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    Know your job. You should be trained to do your job when you first arrive. However, if you find yourself a year or two in, and you still don't have all the knowledge you need, ask someone for help. If you want to be discreet, ask someone who works at the same level as you to give you a few pointers; you can pay the person back by taking him or her out to dinner.[9]
    • Similarly, if you don't understand a new assignment, ask for clarification from your boss. Your boss usually won't mind because you're just trying to get the job done right.[10]
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    Stay on task. While you're at work, be at work. Don't be on the phone with non-business calls except for the rare emergency. Avoid social media and other distractions. Focus on the tasks at hand.[11]

Method 3
Keeping Up Appearances

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    Keep your personal and professional life separate. While it's fine to mention your family once and while, keep the details of your nasty divorce at home. Similarly, watch how you present yourself on social media.[12]
    • If you're friending people from work, you might want to hide certain posts from them, or better yet, don't post them at all. For instance, if you're going out on a drinking binge, it might be best to keep those posts separate from your work friends.[13]
    • Another option is to only friend work friends on LinkedIn, since that is meant to be a professional profile, while keeping them away from Facebook. Similarly, you could have two Facebook accounts, one that includes work friends and one that doesn't.
    • However, remember, that once it's out there, it can be copied and shared by other people, so if you really don't want people to see it, don't post it.[14]
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    Buy into the culture. Every office has a different culture, including unspoken rules. Some are more relaxed, while others may be more rigid. Watch people closely to pick up on the unspoken rules. For instance, maybe one unspoken rule is that you need to use email if your question can wait awhile.[15]
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    Keep your office clean. If you have piles of papers and coffee cups everywhere, you'll be viewed as unprofessional. However, you can add a few bits of personal charm; just keep it office appropriate. Pictures of your family are fine; pictures of half naked men or women should probably stay at home.[16]
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    Speak distinctly and thoughtfully. The best way to sound professional is to keep the verbal tics out of your speech. One way to do that is to speak more slowly, taking time to think about what you're saying as you say it.[17]
    • If you aren't sure what verbal tics you use, try taking a recording of yourself when you're talking on the phone. You'll be able to notice it better when you play back than you normally do when you're speaking.[18]
    • Try to eliminate the "ums" and "likes."[19]

Method 4
Treating Others Well

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    Give other people your respect. Being respectful, instead of catty or sarcastic, is a way of showing other people that you are a true professional. Encourage others to speak up in meetings, and don't belittle what they have to say. Don't respond rudely to people, even if you think the idea sounds silly.[20]
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    Listen well. Part of treating others well is listening well. It shows other people that you actually care what he or she has to say, and it fosters true conversation, as you're not just waiting until they finish talking so you can say what you want.[21]
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    Skip the gossip. If you talk about people behind their back, eventually it will get back around to them, which won't make anyone happy. If you stay out of the drama, you'll definitely appear more professional.[22]
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    Acknowledge your mistakes. If something you worked on goes awry, don't push it off on someone else. Own up to it, and figure out how to do better in the future. If you realize something is going wrong in the middle of a project, bring it up with your boss; maybe together you can figure out how to fix it.[23]
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    Make honesty your policy. Professionals tell the truth about their work, both to their co-workers and their clients. Lying will eventually be found out and make you look unprofessional.[24]
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    Be confident, not combative. Though you should be confident in your work, you shouldn't try to take others down to make your work look better. For instance, if you finish your work quicker than others, your boss will notice without you crowing about it.[25]
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    Use people's names. People love to hear the sound of their name. If you use peoples' names often, they will feel more respected by you.[26]

Method 5
Maintaining Your Skills

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    Peruse the latest news. Read widely in your field. Look at current news, as well as information on related companies. For instance, if you're in the jewelry business, keep tabs on what your competition is doing.[27]
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    Keep your skills up-to-date. Take continuing education classes when possible. Go to training courses. Read current textbooks published in your field. Make sure you keep your skills up-to-date.[28]
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    Become a member of a professional organization. Most fields have some type of professional organization. Those organizations will often have local meetings where you can brush up on local news. In addition, they'll likely have large annual meetings where you can meet with other professionals and hear panels and lectures in your field.[29] They may also put out newsletters that provide you with updates about the field.[30]
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    Take on extra assignments. While this step doesn't sound like much fun, it can help you build skills and experience. In addition, your boss will notice that you're willing to take jobs that no one else wants, which can help you when promotion time comes around.[31]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Job Strategies