5 Tips for Becoming Obscenely, Shockingly Professional (and an all-around stellar human being!)
I'll be really honest with you on this one: I share this advice with you not because I’ve perfected the art of professionalism every time. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’ve made or witnessed all of these mistakes over the years and have learned a lesson or two before gaining this clarity. So I share these 5 tips with you in the hopes of preventing you from making the same errors in judgment. I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to be mentored by many talented professionals. When I think about specific traits that I admire, below 5 tips are a concise starting point.
1. Return phone calls and always reply to a professional email, preferably within a few days time. If you aren’t a “phone person,” at the very least, send an email reply. Of course, we all get busy. A few days delay, in most cases, is acceptable but any more than that and you’re heading towards slacker territory. Don’t be that person who only replies when something is needed. People remember this sort of behavior. It doesn't bode well in business nor’ in our personal lives. Do reply even if your response is “No, thank you.” This brings me to tip #2.
2. Don’t be a time-waster. Everyone else is just as busy as we are. Once you return the phone call or email, be honest about your intention. Don’t bullsh*t your way into extending a conversation that you aren’t interested in. We all lead very busy lives, even those on the other end of our computer (or IPAD) screen. It’s always smart to tell the truth and allow the other person the freedom to disengage and move forward with a prospect that may be more interested. (Again, the same applies to our personal lives and is sometimes referred to as “…leading someone on.” Just don’t do it. It isn’t kind and it definitely is a professional “no-no.”)
3. Be willing to have the “uncomfortable conversation” with full openness and grace because this is how we strengthen and truly grow to become stellar professionals. This is business. As the saying goes”…it ain’t personal.” The truth is this: Someone, at some point, is NOT going to agree with us. It’s that simple.
We should be consummate professionals regardless but it doesn’t always happen. I’ve seen this demonstrated on more occasions than I’d care to admit. I consider myself lucky to have worked in a corporate fashion environment for several years, because it prepared me for “feedback,” “development plans” and all the other corporate jargon that generally means that “someone screwed up somewhere and it needs to be discussed. Now.”
With that said, take a deep breath, a few days (if needed) and listen from a place of openness and perspective. Then, ask questions and try your very best to withhold judgment. Allow for a two-way conversation. Remember, most people are generally kind-hearted and well intentioned. I know how difficult it can be to not take critiques personally but by doing so, you set a very high standard of professionalism that sets you apart from the crowd.
4. Don’t cancel or re-schedule an appointment with a client more than one time. (Again, see tip #1. We’re all busy.) Life happens but it if happens all too often, we become known as a “flake” or even worse “unreliable.” Being unreliable is an absolute “no-no” in the professional world. And you might see a trend by now but on a personal level, friends and acquaintances don’t like this either. (I’ll admit, I’ve done this a few times myself with friends over the years and I’ve also felt the wrath of it. I’m working on getting better at this, too.)
5. And finally, never (EVER) burn bridges. This is fairly self- explanatory but it bears repeating because it's incredibly important. When a relationship ends, no matter how much you dislike the way a person behaved or a situation “went down” professionally, do yourself a favor and LET IT GO. Move on with grace and dignity. But please do not use this as an opportunity to tell someone your opinion of him or her (or have the “last word.”) Even if it gives us instant gratification, it never serves us in the long-term. In most industries, chances are that our paths will either directly or indirectly cross again. Remember tip #3? Well, this is not tip #3. This behavior can be considered devious and self-serving. Feedback is appropriate when a reciprocal professional relationship existsand both parties are in agreement. But, when one person takes it upon themselves to offer feedback when no genuine relationship exists, it can act as a professional Kamikaze attack. And yes, I know this sounds dramatic but in my experience, it's a fairly accurate description.
Sometimes people aren't awesome professionals, I get that. And do stand up for yourself when necessary but find the strength to "bite the bullet" when it isn't. Vent to friends, to strangers on the subway or to anyone not related to the situation but please, do not burn bridges by being negative, judgmental, and needing to have the “last word.”
The professional world is tiny. There is no guarantee this advice will be reciprocated by others but always act with dignity, grace and professionalism. We can’t control the behavior of others but we can always find in within ourselves to be a consummate professional. To be “Obscenely, Shockingly Professional” doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always be liked but it does guarantee that you’ve done your best and that you can be proud of your behavior in any situation.
Now get out there and rock this, personally and professionally!
So, what are a few of your favorite "pro" tips that you've learned along the way? Tell us what you think by sharing your comments below.
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