Monday, April 18, 2011

Young Professionals Week (YPW): Presenting Yourself Professionally

Although I am an artiste at heart, I am also very business oriented. One of my greatest goals in life is to help others, minority girls in particular, to understand and excel at business. True, not everyone will be an entrepreneur or even work in an industry that involves your typical "business." However, the majority of us will have to work for and with someone else, and in doing so we must learn how to present ourselves professionally. It is critical to our success--and our paycheck!

So how exactly do you present yourself professionally? There are a couple of simple things you can do to show the more refined, business-minded side of yourself, regardless of the nature of your business.

When it comes to jewelry and makeup, less is more.
I was recently in a training where an older woman had multiple rings on every. single. finger. Add that to the earrings, necklaces (yes, multiple) and bracelet she had on... When she spoke, where do you think all of the attention went? To the mounds of jewelry, not to what she was saying!  Accessorizing and using makeup to enhance your appearance is great. It projects the image that you care about your job and how the company is presented. However, too much of a good thing really isn't a good thing at all. Practice moderation when it comes to the makeup and jewelry.

Be 110% sure that your clothing is work-appropriate.
Whether you are working with kids, working with power brokers or working with power tools, there is appropriate attire for your job.Since I'm still in the confines of a traditional office job (for now) I focus on that area. Of course, your employer will already have a dress code--most likely written in the policy, but some places it is simply implied. If you're not sure, remember: if you wear it to the club, it's a no. That means the low-cut, super-short, and tight tight outfits are a no-go. After all, you're there to handle business, not sleep your way to the top, right? Also, if you wear it to bed, do NOT bring that to the office! Yes, I have seen some people in places of business dressed as if they were lounging around the house. I can't imagine they were there long. Please leave the sweats, PJ bottoms and Pajama Jeans at home... even if they are comfy. And guys, you aren't off the hook either! The loud Steve Harvey suits with the jacket to your knees? Sir, just say no. I would advise you to say no to buying them at all, but if you must buy them, relegate their wear to Easter service and the Playa's Ball.

Don't over share.
Sure, you're an adult and expected to enjoy adult activities. But do you really think it's appropriate to share how drunk you got over the weekend? Or how good your partners *ahem* skills are? Or how you're gonna whoop so-and-so's behind if they cross you again? Not in the office, it's not. If you've got a coworker that happens to be a good friend, feel free to talk about all of that after hours, preferably at happy hour. Better yet, leave the sordid details of your life outside of work to convos with pals with different employers. Be cordial, of course, but know when and where to draw the line.

Check and double-check your work.
The most important part of your professional presentation is how effectively and efficiently you do your work. No matter how polished you appear physically, if your work appears sloppy, you appear unprofessional. If you are sending out any written document, you need to double check for clarity as well as spelling and grammar. Make certain that presentations meet any guidelines that have been given (such as an allotted time) and that your message is clear and concise. Don't simply rely on spell check to catch errors. If at all possible, have someone else proofread your work

Of course these aren't the last word in professionalism, so what do you have to say? What advice would you give other young professionals? What, in your opinion, is a definite way to portray yourself as unprofessional?

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