Considering professionalism is an expectation that goes without saying in any career, it’s important to cultivate habits and disciplines that will set you up for success in the workplace.
Here are 13 professional habits you should be implementing now if you’re not already.
1. Show up 15 Minutes Early
Though the saying “better late than never” does have some truth to it, it’s better to never be late.
Ever heard the saying that if you are on time, you’re late, and if you’re early, you are on time? Striving to be early allows for additional time for the roadblocks that many people see as excuses for a lack of punctuality. Plan to show up 15 minutes early to everything you do, and you likely won’t have to fear to be late again.
2. Be the First One in the Office and the Last One Out
Though you don’t have to maintain this precedent for your entire career, being the first one in the office and last one out—at least while you are new to any position or company—will help you gauge the pace of your team. Additionally, it will help you remain disciplined to put in more hard work and show your peers your dedication.
3. Communicate Directly
Sarcasm can be funny in high school, but communication is critical to your growth and success. In a fast-paced or growing company, it’s likely that your boss isn’t going to be assessing your every need or handing out raises left and right.
You are your own advocate, so speak up, and be forthcoming about what you want and need to be successful in the workplace.
4. Learn When to Be “off”
Though the mindset of work-life balance is being shifted to a work-life harmony, being “off” is still important to your rest and recovery.
In a fast-paced culture where we can access our email at any hour of the day, boundaries are important. However, sometimes not checking your messages can give you more stress than if you quickly glimpsed at them.
Know your limits, be present, set boundaries, and make sure you carve out time to be both on and off the clock in a manner consistent with your lifestyle.
5. Respond within 12 hours
Respond within 12 hours to any communication. Some people will say 24 hours is common courtesy, but in my experience, 12 is best.
If you only check your inbox once a day, make sure you’re communicating with the people who are contacting you even if it’s to say that you’ve received their inquiry and that you’ll have a response within a certain timeframe.
6. Allow for Extra Time
Be careful not to over or underestimate your time, or how long it may take you to accomplish certain projects. Always budget more time than less, but if you struggle with this, try using a project management solution, or even a stopwatch and note on your phone to see how long it takes you to complete tasks.
7. Own Your Mistakes
Rather than casting blame, take personal responsibility for anything you may not have done fully and correctly. Apologize sincerely, learn how to improve, and adjust for the future.
8. Dress the Part
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Your clothing communicates the message you want to send, the respect you have for yourself, and sets the tone for your first impression. If you need more help on this topic, check out this article.
9. Stay off Your Cell Phone
Though cell phones are an effective way to communicate, being on your phone at the wrong moment can send a negative impression. Even if only to take notes, staying on your phone during a meeting appears unprofessional. Try another communication channel like Slack instead.
10. Plan Your Day
Planning out your day or even your week will help you prioritize the objectives and projects you need to accomplish. This mindset takes a proactive approach to your work instead of reacting to issues as they arise. Planning out your day will take away the constant need to put out fires and allow you to better focus.
11. Learn to Do Things Yourself
We’ve all witnessed that one person who just can’t seem to figure things out without any assistance. From storing files to staying on track, we’ve all been around someone who just appears clueless.
Instead of being reliant and asking for help on every project, take initiative to develop new skills or watch tutorials on your own time instead of constantly and consistently relying on others.
12. Find a Mentor
Mentorship can be instrumental to the growth in your career. Find a mentor who’s willing to watch you thrive, and make this part of your continuing professional development.
13. Know Your Value
Know the areas that you specialize in bringing and adding value to a team, and exercise them well. Knowing your strengths will allow you to contribute better to any and every team you’ll be a part of, and will also make you indispensable to your employer.
Don’t work for less than what you are worth, and know your value so you can ensure you’re being compensated accordingly.