The Complete Guide on How to Look and Act Like a Business Professional


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We all want to make a great impression within our workplaces. It’s a gateway to promotions and raises, and at a minimum, it gains you more respect from your colleagues, making for a more pleasant workday.

As important as your work performance is, the devil is in the details. The little things you do and say make a huge impact on whether your colleagues and bosses see you as a professional.

If you want to work on your professionalism, the key is adopting little habits and changes along the way. Start with these tips to look and act like a respected business professional.

1. Understand the Dress Code

An important part of professionalism is making those around you feel comfortable by fitting into the atmosphere well. Your wardrobe plays a major role, and “the more formal, the better” isn’t a good rule of thumb.

Every office has a different level of formality in their dress code, and your objective is to match that dress code. If you’re starting at a new office, don’t be afraid to ask someone in advance.

When in doubt, it’s better to overdress. Try to overdress in a way you can adjust if you find out the dress code is less formal, such as by taking off your suit jacket and your tie.

2. Be Timely

Being on time is crucial for professionalism because if you’re late, it sends a message that you don’t respect others’ time. That will land you in a hole before you know it.

It isn’t just about getting to work on time in the morning. You also need to be on time for all meetings within the workday and for any deadlines assigned to you. To help you stay on top of everything, try adding all meetings and deadlines to your phone’s calendar and set a reminder for 15 minutes in advance.

3. Accessorize Like a Boss

Your outfit’s accessories seem like minor details but they can go a long way toward making you look more professional. You want your accessories to be classy and understated, so they add some personality and sophistication without taking you outside the dress code.

If you have a hard time pairing accessories together, try getting sets like tie sets for men or jewelry sets for women. This takes the guesswork out of it so you can grab the items and head out the door.

4. Use a Grammar Checker

Chances are that most of your communication with clients, vendors, and even many people within your own office will be via email. There’s no faster way to look unprofessional than to send emails full of misspellings and grammatical mistakes. Those mistakes also set you up for potential misunderstandings.

An easy fix is to use a spelling and grammar-checking tool like Grammarly. You can install it in your web browser so it’ll check everything you type in that browser, including emails and chat messages.

5. Plan Your Interactions Ahead

Speaking off the cuff comes naturally to a small percentage of the population. For the vast majority of us, it’s difficult to speak professionally and get the right message across when we’re trying to think on the spot.

If you have a meeting or other important conversation coming up, try thinking up some of your wording in advance. You don’t have to prepare a full speech and memorize, but simply running through some options will help you find the right words when the time comes.

If you’re concerned about the other person’s response, take it a step further. Think about the ways they might react and find professional ways to respond.

6. Take Ownership

We all make mistakes, whether you’re in your first entry-level job or you’re a seasoned professional. What determines your professionalism is what you do after your mistake.

Take ownership and responsibility for your mistakes. Be honest about them from the start and come up with a solution to make sure your error has the least possible impact on others.

7. Establish a Solid Morning Prep Routine

Your daily grooming is an important part of your professionalism, and so is your consistency. To make sure you look like an organized and neat professional on a daily basis, establish a clear and well-timed morning routine.

We’re talking about planning your mornings down to the minute. If you need to leave for work at 7:30, for example, your schedule might be:

  • Shower 6:40 – 6:55
  • Brush teeth 6:55 – 7:00
  • Do makeup 7:00 – 7:10
  • Do hair 7:10 – 7:20
  • Get dressed 7:20 – 7:25
  • Gather items and get out the door 7:25 – 7:30

You can always adjust your schedule if you find that it isn’t working. Still, having a predictable routine ensures that you don’t forget any part of your essential grooming and that you can get out the door on time.

8. Keep an Emergency Kit

Things happen, and no matter how well you plan, unexpected problems can arise. Sometimes those unexpected problems affect your ability to look professional, but you don’t have to be at their mercy.

Have an emergency kit at work in case you need some last-minute refreshing. For example, include an extra stick of deodorant in case you forget yours in the morning. Add hair bands, gel, or hairspray to fix disheveled hair.

Don’t forget items you might need to fix your wardrobe in a pinch, like a sewing kit and a stain remover pen. You could even keep an extra tie in your emergency kit.

Add in medications and items you might need for small discomforts that happen throughout the day. You might want over-the-counter medicines for headaches, stomachaches, and so on. It’s easy to lose your cool and ace less professionally when you’re uncomfortable.

Shaping Your Image as a Business Professional

Curating a professional image, both in the way you look and the way you act, will go a long way in your future. It helps you form respected relationships among your colleagues and bosses while setting you up for future promotions.

The tips above seem simple but they can turn around anyone’s image to make you a valued business professional. For more tips on building your career and other topics, check out more articles on our blog.

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