You work just as hard at your job as everyone else. Maybe even harder. But does it ever seem like all of your coworkers are getting promotions while you’re getting left in the dust?
The truth is that sometimes being great at your job and working hard just isn’t enough. More often than not, it’s about presenting yourself more professionally so that your boss can start to see you as more of a leader.
In this post, I’m going to explain how you can be more professional at work, so that you can have a better shot at finally getting that promotion—and recognition—that you deserve.
Big thanks to our sponsor Carl Friedrik for making this post possible! Carl Friedrik offers beautiful leather briefcases, wallets and bags that are handmade in Italy with the finest materials. Use offer code DM10 to save 10% off .
If you want to be seen as a rising star in your company, you’re going to have to put in a bit of extra work.
But I’m not talking about extra job-related work at your desk. If you’re aiming for that promotion, you’re probably already giving your day-to-day job duties everything that you’ve got.
You’re going to need to put some extra effort into making yourself into a more professional employee.
Bosses look for workers who already demonstrate they can be leaders BEFORE they’re given extra responsibility.
So without further ado, here are my tips to help you appear more professional at work. Watch the video below or continue reading.
1. Walk and Talk Like A Leader
What kind of person do you picture when you think of a leader?
Probably not that woman who sits hunched over her computer all day. Or that guy who awkwardly avoids eye contact and doesn’t say hi when you pass him in the halls.
Leaders are typically charismatic and relatable.
That doesn’t mean you need to be loud or a natural extrovert. I know plenty of great leaders who are soft-spoken.
But it does mean that you should carry yourself with a certain level of confidence.
Whenever you need to get up from your desk and walk somewhere, pay attention to your posture. Be sure to stand up straight, keep your shoulders back, and try to make eye contact and smile at everyone you pass.
Good posture is important at your desk too. It’s easy to get lazy with your sitting posture and slip back into bad habits. No matter how hard you’re working, it gives a bad impression if a boss or coworker comes over to your desk and sees you slumped halfway down in your chair.
Leaders also speak with confidence and purpose. If you find that your public speaking skills need some help, you can check out this post on 18 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking. If you use a lot of filler words like “um” and “uh,” that’s also something you can work on to make your speech more direct and meaningful.
2. Build Meaningful Relationships With Coworkers
If you’ve been at a job for a while, it’s too easy to get into a routine. You just want to come in, do your work, and go home as soon as possible.
You can isolate yourself from the people you work with if you aren’t careful.
Take some time to start a conversation with the people you work with. Both coworkers who are at your level, and also managers who are a step or two above you.
People love to feel acknowledged. So even if you’re in a big company, try to get on a first-name basis with as many people as you can. Find out about their kids and pets. Ask coworkers what they did on the weekend. Maybe ask a few of them if they want to go for lunch with you on Friday, instead of just eating your sandwich at your desk.
Bosses will definitely notice people who seem to be well-liked by their peers. They might even ask your coworkers for their opinion if you’re being considered for a promotion.
It’s all about making connections. You’re probably a great person, but if you don’t build relationships with people, they’ll never get a chance to know that! Bosses will definitely notice people who seem to be well-liked by their peers. And they might even ask your coworkers for their opinion if you’re being considered for a promotion. So it’s good to have as many people in your corner as possible!
So take a few minutes during your morning break to stop by people’s desks and say hi.
Just make sure not to fall into the trap of office gossip, which comes off as unprofessional and can backfire big-time. Having a positive attitude will inspire those around you. But a negative attitude will bring everyone down.
3. Stop Writing Crappy Emails!
What you write at work says just as much about you as what you say.
Keep your emails short and to the point. Writing long novel-length emails makes it more likely for the reader to miss some information. Plus it sends a message that you don’t respect their time.
If you can say it in three sentences, why do it in three paragraphs?
Speaking of not wasting people’s time, try to refrain from taking part in forwarding funny pictures or similar emails that your coworkers may pass around.
You want your writing at work to come across professional. So if you’re not the best writer, try using a free program like Grammarly that can confirm your spelling and grammar are up to par. Particularly for any emails that you’re sending to someone higher up in the company.
You never want to use sarcasm in emails either, because there’s a good chance it won’t come across and your message will get completely misinterpreted.
Lastly, you should never assume that emails you send at work are private. Assume that any email you send might get seen by anyone else in the company, because it very well could be. So saying rude things about your boss to a coworker via email isn’t the best idea.
4. Dress For The Job You Want, Not The Job You Have
Aside from wearing a tuxedo to work, it’s hard to overdress for most office jobs.
You’re way more likely to get considered for a promotion if you overdress for a job, compared to that one weird guy who always wears a Hawaiian shirt to work.
Look at how your manager and other people in the company at their level dress, and try to emulate that. It might be as simple as upgrading from just wearing a dress shirt to also wearing a tie, or occasionally layering on a casual sport coat.
Even if your company has casual Fridays, you want to look a bit more presentable and be more professional at work than everyone else.
It’s not just the clothes that make a man either. Dressing better is important. But you also want to take a look at your accessories too.
A pair of scuffed shoes will detract from your look, no matter how nice your pants and shirt are.
Even the bag you bring your lunch or laptop to work in says a lot about you. Imagine a guy who dresses nicely and comes to work with a nice professional-looking leather bag. Now imagine that same guy who brings his stuff to work in a leftover grocery bag instead. Big difference!
That’s why I’ve partnered with today’s sponsor Carl Friedrik. They make professional-looking bags that can really take how you’re perceived at work to the next level.
The Palissy Briefcase
Carl Friedrik’s Palissy briefcase is just the right size. For an everyday bag, you don’t want anything too bulky, but you want it to be able to fit all of your daily essentials like a laptop, notebook, documents, and other odds and ends.
And I like that the contemporary design of the Palissy is sophisticated enough that it makes a statement, without being over the top.
Also, the Palissy is made from vegetable-tanned Italian Vachetta leather, so over time it will darken and develop a beautiful, unique patina.
Carl Friedrik is based in London, but their products are handmade in Italy, and you can tell they put great care in everything they do. Just one small example: for the Palissy, they use a heavy-duty Raccagni zipper—and every tooth in the zip has been individually brushed and polished before being assembled on the chain.
If you’re interested, Carl Friedrik is offering special discount to Distilled Man readers for a limited time. Visit their website and use offer code DM10 to save 10% off .
5. Take On Bigger Challenges
It’s rare for people to get promoted unless they’re already doing the work.
Take the example of one of my friends. The manager of her department left the company suddenly, which left her and her coworkers scrambling. She ended up stepping up and basically taking on the role of her former manager, but without any increase to her pay or a special job title for ages.
Finally after about three months, she was officially given the position along with a big raise. She was the obvious choice for the job!
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That’s the kind of initiative that you need to take if you want to fast-track yourself for a promotion.
Raise your hand to take on extra projects, and do everything you can to help. Take ownership! That’s how you’ll get noticed!
You should also have some idea of the bigger picture beyond your own role and where you want to end up eventually. Then you can start figuring out the steps that you need to take to get there.
You might even want to talk to your boss about making a personal development plan to start grooming you for the position that you want. Instead of asking, “When can I get promoted?” Ask “What else do I need to do to start contributing at a higher level?”
Companies are often willing to pay for courses and training for employees who show that kind of initiative!
If you’re in an entry-level position and new at a company, it might feel like there isn’t much opportunity for you to take on bigger challenges right away. To some degree, you’ll need to learn the basics of your role before you can take on any more. But there is always a bit you can do to go above and beyond.
Looking at the efficiency of your job is a good place to start. If you can find ways to save the company time, money, or other resources, you’ll put yourself in a very favorable position. So be sure to share any suggestions with your supervisor—just make sure to focus more on how those improvements benefit the company rather than being too critical of the existing way of doing things.
One opportunity might be if you’re tech-savvy and you’re taking the position over from someone who’s done it the same way for years. Now you can come in with a fresh pair of eyes and use a new app or web-based tool to change a task that used to take them six hours a day into something that only takes one hour or even minutes.
Conclusion: It Pays to Be More Professional at Work
So that’s it, guys—five tips to help you be more professional at work.
The big thing to keep in mind is that you’re being evaluated at work all the time. Your employer’s assessment of you doesn’t suddenly stop once you get hired. How you walk, how you dress, and how you present yourself all play a big part in how professional you come across.
Do you have any other tips on how to appear more professional in the workplace? Let me know in the comments below!
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