I try to emphasize this multiple times in my talk, even though it’s obvious. The reason is that people sometimes forget to be professional when they’re trying to stand out.
I’ll admit this can be a fine line, but if you have doubts, get opinions from your partner, your parents, your kids, your friends. You want to look like you can do the job well, in whatever industry you are working.
What It Means
Being professional means a number of things. It means that whenever you are presenting yourself, whether on the phone, on a blog, during an interview, you are doing these things:
- Stay on topic
- Be respectful
- Be polite
- Be honest
Staying on topic means sticking to relevant topics about your career or industry. You can relate other experiences, but the important part is sticking to the topic.
Being respectful means that you understand the other person’s point of view, or other points of view, and you appreciate how those views, solutions, decisions are reached. You might feel they are wrong or inappropriate for the situation, but you both understand that you could be wrong yourself, and the person might have made their own mistake. It means appreciating the other.
Politeness shouldn’t be hard, but it’s following societal and cultural norms. Don’t interrupt, make some eye contact, be nice, shake hands. There are all sorts of social things here, and if you have doubt, do a little research. Ask friends or partners if you are impolite. This goes a long way towards showing that you can work with others. If you don’t want to be polite, remember that some people (like myself) will hold that against you in a job situation.
I don’t mean to put honestly last, or diminish its importance, but honesty in this sense means trying your best to do a good job at whatever you do. Don’t misrepresent your work or your skills. Accept responsibility for mistakes or delays. Perform an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.