How To Feel More Confident/Professional At Work

By Victoria Robertson on October 12, 2018

Professionalism has many definitions, and an individual’s perception of what exactly that means varies depending on the person. When trying to be more professional at work, there are many ways in which to accomplish that task. Of course, this is entirely dependent on your work ethic and personality, but there’s always room to push yourself to be the professional that you want to be.

So how do you begin? When it comes to being professional, where should you start and what are the qualities that you should be showcasing?

The truth is, there are too many to count. However, there are a few qualities that are universally relevant to professionalism.

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So without further ado, here are 10 ways in which you can feel more confident and/or professional at work.

1. Look the Part

The way you dress says a lot about you, especially in a work environment. Weekends are one thing, but dressing for work is something else entirely. And there is no easy answer as to how you should dress for work, as each workplace is different.

For instance, some workplaces have casual dress codes in which you don’t need to dress up every day. In fact, these workplaces often are more lax and allow you to wear jeans every day. That being said, there’s a proper way to dress casually for work. Even if your workplace allows ripped jeans, stay away from them when it comes to the workplace. In addition, graphic tees and other such items are unprofessional in most settings.

Again, each workplace is different (and some will have business professional dress codes), but as a general rule of thumb, it’s much better to be overdressed than underdressed when it comes to professionalism. So always dress up and never dress down!

2. Stay Organized

Organization is key; that’s a phrase that comes up far too often in professional environments, but for good reason. When it comes to maintaining professionalism, organization is one of the key factors that will get you there.

This extends from your email inbox all the way to how messy your desk is. The most professional individuals are organized at all times, in every sense of the word. You’ll find that most employers seek out individuals with top-notch organization skills, as these are the most universally sought after skills due to their necessity in a professional environment.

So if you’re the type of person that’s a bit disorganized in your personal life, make sure you put in extra effort to avoid being disorganized in your professional life.

3. Speak Up

More often than not, new employees don’t feel comfortable speaking their mind in the workplace. However, this is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make in a professional work environment.

In meetings in which your employer is looking for feedback, thoughts and reactions, staying silent is detrimental to your professionalism. In fact, it typically gives off the sense that you don’t have an opinion on the matter or don’t care about the matter altogether, which isn’t an impression that you want to give when it comes to your job.

When it comes to these types of meetings, make sure that you speak up and provide your opinion when you have one. While you’ll obviously want to maintain a professional demeanor, your opinion, when asked for, is wanted, so staying silent is not going to benefit you in the least.

4. Know When to Listen

That all being said, sometimes, speaking up is not in your best interest. In fact, there are many individuals who speak up too often in professional environments. On the one hand, you have those that are so opinionated they don’t let anyone else contribute to the conversation, and on the other hand, you have individuals that don’t know when their opinion isn’t wanted and/or needed.

There will be plenty of times in which you may have to listen to an individual you may not agree with, but find yourself in a situation in which you are unable to disagree and have to bite your tongue. In other situations, you’ll find that your opinion is best kept to yourself.

Finding the balance between speaking up and listening isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that’s necessary to maintain your professionalism. Sometimes will be harder than others to stay quiet or speak up, but it’s up to you to find that balance.

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5. Leave Emotions at Home

Sometimes, when it comes to your emotions, it’s best to check them at the door of the office. In other words, don’t bring your personal life to work when you can avoid it, as it’s truly only going to cause problems. While sometimes personal life problems and/or concerns will spill into your professional life, generally speaking, the more you’re able to separate the two, the better off you will be.

You’ll find that you may work with people who share a lot of details of their personal life, and others who hardly share anything. In addition, there are going to be circumstances in which you’ll feel some people overshare.

As far as you are concerned, this balance is again, up to you. Nobody is going to tell you when you can and can’t share things (for the most part), so sharing is up to your discretion. That being said, it’s always better to keep more to yourself than you share, as you never know how individuals will react to the information you are sharing. In the interest of not offending anyone and not giving too much information to your co-workers, make sure you get to know everyone before you go spilling all the information about your life.

6. Censor Yourself

This goes hand in hand with the concept of oversharing: sometimes, there are things that aren’t work appropriate and that are better kept to yourself. For instance, swearing in an office environment, no matter the policy/who else does it, is always a bad idea. While you may work in an office that’s lax in that regard, you never know who you could offend and it’s better to give off a more professional vibe when in an office setting.

In addition, you’ll find that it’s best to censor yourself when it comes to your tone and demeanor in a work environment. You may not agree with someone or find that you’re angry/upset with a co-worker on occasion, but overreacting is only going to make matters worse.

So if you find yourself in one of these types of situations, take a step back, think about what you’re going to say, then act. Always think twice before making any accusations/emotionally charged comments, as these circumstances are the most likely to cause problems for you down the road.

Infographic by Victoria Robertson

7. Have Confidence

When it comes to looking and feeling professional, confidence is key. You have to be confident in yourself in order to give off a professional vibe. The less sure you are of yourself, the more timid you will come across in a professional environment, which can read as either uncaring or confused, neither of which are qualities that you want to be showcasing in a work environment.

Now, this isn’t to say that being humble and/or aware of your shortcomings is a bad thing. However, you do want to be confident when it comes to the things that you are strong in, and you should always have a demeanor that lets people know you’re willing to put in the effort to get better, no matter what.

Again, there’s a balance to strike here between confidence and cockiness. You don’t want to come across as overbearing or conceited, so make sure that you are checking your confidence to ensure it’s not encroaching on territory that’s going to leave a bad taste in others’ mouths.

8. Be Social

Sometimes, it’s best to be a social butterfly. In a work setting, it’s important that you socialize with your co-workers and don’t end up the recluse that doesn’t talk to anyone. That being said, you don’t want to be the person that’s too social, so again, there’s a certain balance needed on this end as well.

When it comes to socializing at work, keep it light, polite and conversational. You can talk about work-related items or personal life, but make sure you’re not oversharing and that you’re having a conversation with somebody and not at somebody.

In addition, don’t be the type of person that’s too talkative and distracting others from their work. Work time conversations are meant to be a nice break from work, but shouldn’t take up so much of someone else’s time that they aren’t able to complete the tasks assigned to them.

Make sure you’re accomplishing your tasks and that you’re allowing others enough time to accomplish theirs. Side conversations will always be a welcome distraction, but only if they don’t take up a majority of your time or someone else’s. Be sure to find that balance and appreciate the fact that you are still at work and still have things that you need to accomplish.

9. Be Willing to Learn

A willingness to learn is so essential to professionalism that most employers won’t even hire an individual if they don’t see this drive in an interview. When you begin a new position, whether a veteran or new to the position itself, you need to have a willingness and eagerness to learn every day.

You should be coming into work ready to learn whatever it takes to accomplish your job well. Never close yourself off to new information because you think you already know something. The truth is, there’s always something new for you to learn, and just because you’re good at what you do doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement.

One of the biggest mistakes in professionalism that an employee can make is assuming they already know everything. They don’t. No matter your title or status in an organization, there is always room to learn something else. Basically, you will never know everything, so you should be assuming that you don’t when working in a professional environment.

Listen to others, stay open to learning new things or new ways of doing things and don’t be afraid to help others when you think you have a better method of doing something or you’re more confident in how to do something. Again, there’s always room for improvement, but that starts with a willingness to learn on your part.

10. Stay Focused

Last, but definitely not least, it’s very important that a professional is focused at all times when at work. That isn’t to say that you can’t take breaks or enjoy some downtime, or that you won’t have bad days, but for the most part, your main task while at work should be to accomplish your work, no matter what.

Focus is so important in a professional environment, as it’s your opportunity to showcase your dedication to a position. Maintaining your focus will also tell your employer how much you value your job as well as how task-oriented you can be. Employers are looking for employees that want to work, are willing to work and that can stay focused no matter what. Showcasing these skills while at work will truly showcase your professionalism.

In addition, staying focused will set you apart from the rest of your co-workers, as it will set the bar as far as work standards go. Again, you don’t need to overdo this, but accomplishing your tasks on time and working hard every day is only going to work in your favor.

Again, professionalism and confidence go hand in hand, but only if you’re willing to put in the effort to make that happen. These ten ways to feel more confident and/or professional at work are a good starting point, but the true professionalism depends entirely on your situation, work environment and colleagues.

Basically, do what you can to maintain a professional demeanor on your end and adjust accordingly based on your work environment.

You’ll be feeling much more professional in no time!

Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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