It has been a common observation among industry leaders that young people, right out of colleges, have very little understanding of professionalism. Well, it means much more than wearing a formal suit, holding a college degree, and having a fancy designation. According to a survey by the York College of Pennsylvania, only 44.8% of college graduates exhibit professionalism in their first year on the job. There is a growing need today for professionals who are effective communicators with a strong knowledge of technical know-how and excellent people skills.
However, there is no simple definition of professionalism. What one organization might deem as unprofessional could be totally acceptable elsewhere. But unreliability has been named thebiggest career limiting factor everywhere. Every employer looks to hire professionals who will do everything in their power to meet their commitments. It is undeniable that the future belongs to the competent.
Your employers may or may not tell you what exactly they think of professionalism. But simple things like finishing tasks and projects late, not being prepared for meetings or gossiping at work are a few things that point towards unprofessionalism. The qualities of a professional are not something alien to our nature. But the challenge lies in overcoming our habits, behaviour, and attitude that hinder us from being true professionals. Here are 8 hacks that ensure that you start working like a good professional from Day I when you get your first job.
1. Give priority to customers
Most fresh graduates enter their first jobs with a sense of entitlement and often put their own needs ahead of the clients/customers. Understanding what your customer needs and making sure it is delivered happen to be the hallmark of a true professional. Always keep in mind that without your customer, your company cannot survive and you cannot keep your job for long. For example, never take a personal call in the middle of a conversation with a customer, never cut a customer call, and most importantly, never vent your personal frustration on him/her.
2. Get involved
Staying aloof will not augur well in the corporate world. Try and find a job that you feel passionate. That will make it easier for you to participate in the proceedings. Your boss or employer is looking for people who will ask intelligent questions. So try and involve yourself in team meetings by giving sound opinions and asking pertinent questions. Demonstrating curiosity and a willingness to learn are crucial factors for sound professional and personal growth.
3. Do your homework
Yes, you read it right. Getting a degree does not mean you no longer do your homework. A new job is a lot like starting a new year at college. Try and set aside regular time, apart from your workday, to learn more about your job, company, and industry. Keep up with the latest updates in technology and standards, so as to make sure you are giving your best. Moreover, in this age of incredibly high standards and tough competition, it is not a bad idea to get an edge over your peers.
4. Be the troubleshooter
No one likes the bloke who keeps moaning about all the problems he encounters at work. So make sure you are a solution provider. Identify the problems and be ready with solutions. You will be surprised at the number of people who merely point at a problem and wait for someone else to fix it. It is never a bad idea to be seen as the go-to guy in the office. In fact, it can be your ticket to climb up the corporate ladder.
5. Look the part
You may be brilliant at your job, but show up for work in a ratty shirt and frayed jeans and you may not have a job the next day to come to. Learn to fit in at your workplace, understand the dress code, and dress accordingly. But looking like a professional extends beyond dressing for the part. It is a given that a well-groomed appearance helps, but confidence and poise will also help. Do not confuse that with being cocky and pompous – nobody likes a braggart.
6. Be punctual
This might sound too simplistic to be taken seriously, but take this lightly at your own risk. You are being paid for the time you spend working at the office, arriving on time, and delivering projects and results on time. It is a good idea to show up early and leave later than the rest. It shows commitment and adds to how you are perceived.
7. Adapt yourself
Your first job is like a battlefield – there is always a chance of things going south. There may be times when you are asked to work late, switch job roles or do things that your job description never mentioned. But remember to roll with the punches. It will earn you the respect of your superiors. Be flexible in your dealings and adapt to how things work. It may take a little effort on your part initially, but will definitely benefit you in the long run.
8. Work with the team
You are not a rock star. College may have given you the liberty of working by yourself, but in a professional environment, you usually have to work with a team. So do not unnecessarily try and take control of the proceedings. Be level-headed in your dealings and ensure you are always directing the team towards a solution that will take care of the problem in hand. Understand your role in the team and always aim to over-deliver. A true professional will always say ‘we’ when speaking to a superior or a customer about the progress of the team and skip the ‘I’ word.
Being a thorough professional at work does not necessarily make you brilliant at your job, but it definitely portrays you as a reliable individual. More importantly, it will make you confident of your abilities and help build relationships with superiors, clients, and colleagues that will last a long time. You may have landed the job based on your skills, but whether you can keep it or not is always up to how professionally you conduct yourself.