Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Professionalism

What is it?

The ability to handle any situation in the business realm with courtesy, poise, and confidence.

Nope, none of us are perfect. But rather than get all stressed out about a faux pas, I'd like to offer these suggestions to help you navigate nervousness:

1. Always preplan. See yourself in the upcoming situation. Close your eyes and imagine you are already there. See yourself as calm, elegant, and happy. How you visualize yourself is more powerful than anything I can tell you. Your body will follow what your mind has preconceived. Do your prep work.
2. Brainstorm. How will you act? Who might you see? What will you wear? It is often the fluster that comes from feeling unprepared that causes a meeting to go sour. You can't control everything, but you can control yourself.
3. What will you wear? :-) I'm so glad you asked. Personality and appropriateness matter here. If you are swimming, you wear a swimsuit. If you are skiing, you wear a coat, skiis, and all the gear. So, if you are attending a business meeting then you wear business attire. You choose the color, style, and fit based on your personality.
4. What's business attire? It's always more than jeans! In a conference setting, wear slacks or a skirt and a blouse (or button down shirt for men) at the very least. Make sure you dress up further for more formal meetings. The most important thing is that the clothes are comfortable on your body. Don't wear overly tight, too long, or difficult to fasten clothing. You will regret it. Tennis shoes do not go with slacks or skirts or suits. There are plenty of other comfortable shoes.
5. Why be so formal? You might think-It's not my personality. You can dress within your own tastes and still be professsional. You wouldn't wear your skiis in the pool, so why would you wear inappropriate attire to a business event? It's just silly stubbornness that costs folks in the long run. Nope, don't make the excuse that you can't afford it. Goodwill, or some other similar store, will have perfectly acceptable used clothing. No one needs to know where you bought it. But lots of people love a good bargain and might think you are ultra smart for doing it.
6. Preplan for uncomfortable situations. Think through potential pitfalls before they happen. What could some of them be? How will you handle someone being rude? How will you handle it if your clothes get torn or stained prior to a meeting? What if you are singled out by someone obnoxious? What if you freeze up and can't talk? You get the drift. Close your eyes and think yourself through the entire situation. This little bit of preparation will be 80% of the battle. Why? Nothing ever goes exactly as it's expected. So plan for the unexpected.
7. Learn to smile and shake hands properly. I actually mentor people in this activity. Why? Noodle hands leave really bad impressions as do squishing squires. Practice with several friends and family until you feel they are genuinely comfortable.
8. Join Toastmasters. Why? You will practice demeanor, speaking, confidence, and appropriate business conduct. But you will also learn to tell short bios, topics, and practice timed talks. Where else would a writer get better training in public speaking, pitches, and professional growth. This will help you in so many ways in marketing/promotion alone!
9. Watch how you laugh and joke. Why? This isn't about changing the real you. It is about making sure you don't injure someone. Huh? Okay, here goes...I have met several women who laugh so loudly and at such a high pitch that it is actually painful to be near them. In addition, telling off color jokes is painfully embarrassing to many people. They aren't sure if they are supposed to laugh or be offended. Play it safe. Monitor the level of noise and be aware of painful behavior so that you can polish it up.
10. Be more gracious toward others than they are to you. Show your interest in them as a human being. Offer courtesy. It has fallen by the wayside too often. A person who shows respect, courtesy, and a gracious demeanor stands out in the crowd.
11. Above all be calm, but enthusiastic in a genuine low-key manner. Let your eyes sparkle, but keep yourself physically contained. It's addictive to talk to a person who's eyes sparkle and who sits still for good communication.

What thoughts did this post bring up?

Please feel free to ask away. I could go on all day with lots more tips on professionalism. I simply wanted to help others ponder some points that might help with getting published, hired, or improve interpersonal skills.

What questions do you have on how to be more professional? What needs tweaking? Ask away:-)

Angie

4 comments:

  1. I'm so glad Angie brought up this topic. As some of you know, my field is Marketing & Communications. I've been on two radio stations in the last couple of months (one was yesterday) and you really have to be professional in the way you speak, choice of words, phrases, etc. Professionalism is really the key. You can know your content and business well, but if you aren't professional in the way you conduct business or present yourself to others, what you know is lost on all your readers, clients, and peers.

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  2. I would like to add that not only what you know, is lost to others, but what you're trying to sell or the message you're trying to get across.

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  3. Angie---great reminder. Like you said, we don't want to not be ourselves, but we can do that and be professional, courteous and polite in several different ways. And you addressed them.
    Thank you. Love this topic.

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  4. Great points, Angie!

    I had to laugh (in a decent decibel level, of course!) at your comment about the women who laugh painfully loud. :) I've been around a few of those as well. And I have sensitive ears, so it was awful. I couldn't get away fast enough. Great point.

    Also, good point on being curteous. I was having a conversation with my teen son recently about opening doors for people. He said no one does that anymore. Huh?! I told him I don't care if no one else does it, but that I expect he WILL do it. It's common curteousy.

    I also agree about planning ahead and visualizing. I was really, really nervous at our FHL conference last year. But I planned ahead, thought about what I would say, evisioned myself as someone up front who knew what she was doing (ha!). LOL I was a wreck inside, but tried my best not to let it show. :) And eventually, I settled down (a little), and it got easier. I had decided that no matter who nervous I was, I didn't want others to feel it because it makes them uncomfortable. I wanted everyone to enjoy the conference, not feel my tension.

    It's not always about us. It's about making the other person comfortable.

    Great post!
    Missy

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