The benefits of learning how to be professional at work are many. Raises and promotions quite frequently go from being dreams to realities, and it becomes a lot easier to earn the respect and admiration of your co-workers. If you focus on your performance and the way you carry/present yourself in the office, you'll start to see the rewards of your hard work.
Here's what you need to do to learn how to be professional at work.
11 Ways to be Professional
1. Respect Company Policies
Most companies create an employee handbook or intranet section that outlines the policies and procedures you should follow.
Carefully review these policies and procedures to make sure you're getting your job done efficiently, and that you're up to code on everything.
A lot of the information should be common sense, but if you're unclear on anything, ask your employer, especially if the policy or procedure in question affects other people (both inside and outside the company).
2. Treat Company Property with Care and Respect
From a company-wide scheduling system to a factory floor machine to the corner office projector to a delivery truck, every position comes with various tools and access to other types of company property that will be in your responsibility. Working pros treat this property as their own, while also knowing how to get the best results out of it, for everyone's benefit.
3. Be Organized
As you walk down the hall at work, a manager stops and asks you to take care of a quick task, ASAP. You agree to it and then go back to your desk. The next morning, the manager informs you that they'll have to work over the weekend to complete the task that *you* completely forgot about.
Being organized decreases your chances of missing deadlines, spacing on tasks, or misplacing work files; it also increases your self-confidence in getting the job done right.
Another benefit? Being organized helps you stay sane! Whether it's a company-provided smartphone or just a pen and a notebook, professionals carry something with them to jot down important notes and tasks to ensure they get the work that needs to be done, done.
Here's a tip: create a daily or weekly "to-do" list for yourself, one that you can easily edit.
4. Be Punctual
One of the top 10 soft skills in demand is to always be punctual, and it's not hard to imagine why. Company schedules and resources are often tightly packed like dominoes, where all it takes is one out-of-whack tile to knock everything out of place. To get in the habit of being punctual, buffer your arrival times and deadlines to give yourself leeway.
If your start time is 9 am, or if you have a meeting at 9 am, then arrive no later than 8:45. If your boss gives you a project due date of noon by Friday, aim to deliver an hour or so earlier. When you're on time—either for a workday or a meeting, or with completing a project or task—it sends a message that you're a dependable employee who knows how to manage time. Speaking of dependability...
5. Be Dependable
While most people like surprises, what they really mean is that they like good surprises. On the flip side, no one likes bad surprises. Not being present or prepared or done when your boss or co-workers expect you to constitutes what we'd call a bad surprise.
So when it comes to being dependable, aim for good surprises. For instance, be the person who can swoop in and save the day and help your boss or co-workers with a task or project when someone else drops a bad surprise! When colleagues recognize that you're good at your job, they'll naturally assume you're good at other things too and will feel comfortable coming to you if you consistently prove them right.
6. Be an Ace at Your Job
For people to depend on you, they need confidence that you'll get the job done when the time comes (which is every time). One of the key ways to be professional at work is to stay updated on new advances in your profession; take employer-budgeted courses for improving your skills (or pay your way if you have to); and just generally strive to get the best results you can, in particular when your colleagues' results depend on yours.
Also, stay on top of company information at all times: pay attention in departmental meetings and follow company memos circulated through internal communication channels so that you always know "what's going on" when people ask.
7. Excel at Communication
You don't need to be the shoulder everyone cries on, but if you respect others and show common courtesy regularly, people will notice. Another kind of communication to master stems from the fact that different types of people work in every company: technical, creative, administrative, and so on.
A true pro knows how to bridge communication gaps between different types of people, and across different departments. They know how to get their point across while being mindful of others and always keeping their cool.
Professional communication skills need to be employed in the meeting room, at the water cooler, and especially over email and other instant communications, where all too often, people fire off heated messages they come to regret later, or employ a tone with their words that gets misinterpreted.
Here's a pro tip for being professional at work: if you're locked in a disagreement with a co-worker, and you have to send them an email to sort things out, take the time to re-read the email before you send it, and make sure there's nothing in it that will offend them or raise HR alarms. Also, make sure the email doesn't come off as passive-aggressive.
Here's another pro tip for being professional at work: instead of trying to sort through a disagreement via email, request to speak to the co-worker in person, and hash it out face-to-face. An action like this sends a message that you know how to deal with confrontation in a brave, mature, and head-on manner.
8. Be Intellectually Honest
If you do lose your temper at work at some point, the professional thing to do is apologize and walk back the situation to a point where less-heated conversation can happen. Professionals aren't afraid to take responsibility and admit when they're wrong before a situation gets out of hand, and colleagues will respect you for it.
Similarly, you shouldn't be afraid to admit you don't have all the answers by saying "I don't know," or by asking questions. True professionals are always eager to learn new things and get a better understanding of what's expected of them.
9. Avoid Office Politics and Gossip
It's an unfortunate truth that office politics are a part of life, but if you do your best to avoid office drama and stay far away from co-worker gossip, you're more likely to establish the professional reputation you want.
Just because people talk about you doesn't mean you need to talk about them, but you do need to be aware of what they're saying, especially if their words can ruin your reputation (even indirectly).
10. Dress for Success
A professional colleague once helped me avoid learning the above lesson the hard way. Early in my career, I switched from a company with a startup-like atmosphere to one that was much more corporate. I didn't notice the different dress code until a few days in, when a colleague pulled me aside and politely suggested I make some sartorial changes.
Thankfully, it was early enough on that only a few people had noticed what I hadn't noticed, as I found out later. Being professional at work doesn't mean always wearing a business suit. That would look silly if you worked with animals, for example.
If your job comes with a dress code, follow it closely. Otherwise, learn what the professional standards are for your type of position and follow them instead, or if you're starting a new job, immediately train your eyes on how your co-workers dress, and follow suit.
Keep yourself well-groomed and always pay attention to personal hygiene. For example, always wear deodorant!
11. Stay Positive
A professional looks forward to the opportunities and challenges that each new day brings. You shouldn't dread going to work every morning (but if you do, it might be time to build a resume, and get prepped for a new job search).
Instead, savor the opportunity to learn and grow on a daily basis. Being someone who is positive and optimistic, smiling by default, will motivate and inspire others around you.