The title may come off as a bit dramatic, so I’ll clarify what I mean. It’s impossible always to be professional. We have our personal lives and downtime. You shouldn’t keep up a business persona during all occasions. That sounds exhausting. What I am saying is to consider how you are perceived at three crucial points during your time with a company and the importance of being considered as consistently “professional.” Be mindful of the impression you make while interviewing for a company, while you are working for them, and when you leave. So, when we look at it this way, yes, always behave like a professional when dealing with potential, current, or former colleagues.
Before Joining a Company…
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Starting from your first interaction with a prospective firm, make sure that you act and speak like a professional. How you engage with recruiters and how you communicate over social media are parts of this process.
Be mindful that your communication with any recruiters is honest and that they have your best interests at heart. Tell recruiters if you are in the interview process with other firms or working with other recruiters. They should know where you stand, and you need to set the expectations for your networking relationship. Keep this communication open and candid throughout your relationship.
Don’t start the process of interviewing with firms toward which you are being “pushed.” If you are reluctant, you won’t give your best performance, and it is not a good use of your time or the hiring firm’s.
If there are any technical requirements, make sure to brush up on the fundamentals. Even if you have experience, you may find some contemporary information about your area of expertise that is worth sharing with interviewers. Let them know you are interested in the work you plan to do and are willing to learn. You also may want to fill in gaps in some of the areas where you are less comfortable. Even if you may not be fluent in the technology, you could speak to it and ask some clarifying questions.
Finally, we can get a lot of requests on a platform like LinkedIn. If you are not interested in an opportunity, always reply with a polite and professional tone, your contact will appreciate it. If you are interested, take it seriously, take your time and research the opportunity, and be careful about how you reply. Make sure that you make the impression that you carry yourself “professionally.”
It may seem obvious but needs to be said; one of the most important things project is your respect for working hours. I have recently heard a colleague express that someone not giving an honest effort but still logging full-hours is equivalent to stealing. I find it hard to disagree with his statement. Work to the best of your abilities and be honest about the time you spend doing so.
Don’t forget about the negative impact of being late to meetings. Punctuality should be a top concern of a business professional and being consistently late can create a negative impression of your respect for the work you are doing. Even if the organizer of the meeting is late, you shouldn’t be. If you have a conflict, let your colleagues know ahead of time. It’s a common courtesy that we often forget.
Overall, strive for proactive, fluent, and respectful team communication. Integrity, candor, holding yourself and your colleagues accountable will support productivity and build trust. What also builds trust is delivering on time.
When Leaving a Job…
In my personal experience, this is the phase in which I have encountered the most unprofessional behavior, and it has increased in recent months.
If you are aware that you are leaving soon, this is not an excuse to show your “worst face” to the company. Mind your manners, or you can quickly burn bridges and take additional opportunities away from your career. Remember: Bad news travels fast.
Let’s say you haven’t made up your mind and are considering testing out the market but are unsure about where your current role is headed, try to find out. Consider your relationship with your direct report and what you feel comfortable discussing. If it is a safe harbor, be candid and let your boss know that are thinking about entertaining other opportunities. When you are unsure about how this could be received, consider having a sit-down about your career path and try to find out if there is a chance to do something exciting. Either way, you don’t know until you ask.
If you are motivated to leave your current company for a pay increase, consider talking to your direct report about your needs. Asking for an increase in pay is common, and if it is warranted, would likely be received positively. You are asking the company to continue to invest in yourself. If you are happy in your current position, make sure they are aware, and if you can back it up with a history of productivity and professional behavior in the workplace, the more likely your request will receive serious consideration. Sometimes, all you need to do is speak up, and do so like a professional.
When you are serious about getting a new job, and there are no doubts in your mind, go all in. If you have an offer and have made up your mind, don’t take a counter offer. Don’t even consider it. You are not going to be perceived positively.
Be mindful of the required resignation period. If it’s two weeks, give a two-week notice, not less. Whatever the requirements of your geography, follow them appropriately and leave a positive lasting impression. If a recruiter is offering a bonus for leaving within a couple of days, don’t entertain it. A move like that could cost you more in the long-run. Always behave like a professional, especially at the end of a relationship.
I hope that you found this article useful or, at least, thought-provoking. If you have any comments or thoughts, please post them to the blog. I’m truly concerned about the lack of professionalism that I have encountered recently. It appears that integrity, honesty, and overall professional behavior are becoming harder to find, but I am optimistic that is only a temporary trend.
If we want to become better employees, build better companies and countries, we need to stay focused and be careful about how we carry ourselves. So, please, ALWAYS BE PROFESSIONAL.
Cesar Hernandez, Delivery Management