Friday, May 3, 2013

How to be Professional & Expand Your Success

Whether you're a white-collar professional, a stay at home Mom, or on the front line working with clients, the need for professionalism is always present.

You might be wondering, "What does she know about professionalism?" With a background in Human Resources and over 10 years in Customer Service, I know a thing or two about presenting myself professionally in the workplace. But why does it matter if you don't work in an office? You'll see!

My inner rebel fought against this idea for years. I paid the price for it, believe me! I left jobs if I didn't like the environment or my bosses. I acted with emotion and without rationality. I blurted my opinions in meetings and they weren't always taken lightly. I slouched and pouted when my ideas weren't taken into consideration. 

Thankfully, I've made these mistakes, so if you keep reading, you won't have to live through them yourself! 

For those in the beauty, cosmetology, or makeup industry, these tips will especially help you. If you're a struggling college grad, this will definitely apply to you. If you're trying to get a promotion in a business environment, keep reading.

Professionalism Basics
  • Attendance, Punctuality, & Performance
    • What is an acceptable amount of absenteeism?
      Whether you're a freelance writer, a makeup artist, or just starting your career in a corporate setting, I cannot stress how highly employers and clients regard your attendance, punctuality, and quick response. On time is 5-15 minutes early, and an acceptable level of absenteeism (unless your company has a points system attendance policy or it's specifically defined in their employee handbook) is approximately one day per month with or without notice for personal or sick days. (This doesn't apply to paid vacation, which is not part of absenteeism.)
    • Your boss is "laid back"
      Never trust a laid back boss! No, actually, that's not true. In my experience, I've been lucky to come across bosses who are very laid back in general, and they don't really have an interest in micro-managing. I've also come across a few micro-managers in my day, and I've found that laid back or not, most bosses just want to feel respected. If you think you're taking advantage of their so-called "kindness" (I call it passive managing) you probably are. If your boss is laid back, make sure to consistently ask for feedback. "Am I doing this correctly?" "How do you prefer I submit out of office requests?" "What works best for x, y, or z?" No matter where you work, this will be appreciated. 
    • You don't have a boss, so you can do whatever you want - right?
      If you don't have a boss, ask your clients to fill out an anonymous online survey about their experiences with you! This is an incredible opportunity to see where you may need improvement, but also to hone in on your skill set and work on your personal brand. Are you an expert artist, but you don't have great people skills? Or maybe you are new to your field, and your people skills are great, but you need more training. Either way, this is an opportunity to learn. What can you do better? Can you do more? What do your clients want from you that you may not be offering? (You can create online surveys through
    • Out of Office Replies
      If you have a website with a dedicated e-mail address for media, press, or sales inquiries, it is vitally important to set an out of office       auto-reply if you plan to be out of town or unable to respond to business inquiries for more than three consecutive days. My recommendation is to indicate a specific "service level agreement" on your website, indicating "All e-mail inquiries will receive a reply within 24 hours". Your clients or customers will appreciate knowing when they can receive a reply.

      This is also a great segue to the next topic!
  • Integrity & Consistency
    • Integrity - Do what you'd say you'd do
      If you went to get a haircut and your hairstylist called in sick that day but forgot to forward your appointment to one of her coworkers, would you expect her to be reliable in the future? The same goes for any services that you may offer, or if you work in an office environment. Don't miss a deadline at work just because you don't want to burden someone else with the responsibility - if you're sick, your employer or your clients still want the respect of acknowledging that their project or service will either be passed on to a coworker in your absence, or rescheduled to another day. Even when you need to be out for personal reasons, call your coworkers or clients and let them know someone else will take care of them.
    • Consistency - Offer consistent products, performance, and services
      While we're on the topic of hairstylists - have you ever found a great stylist, only to go back for a follow up appointment and find that your haircut is nowhere near as good as the first one was? Just because you've built clientele or you have a good reputation at the office doesn't give you a hall pass to slack! Too many clients and potential promotions are lost because of laziness. Treat every project or client as if you were doing it for the first time. You'd want to impress them, right? What better way to do that than to impress them every time?
  • Customer Service 
    • People Skills
      Good customer service is at least 90% people skills. If you lack the basic enjoyment of working with others, or you're unsure of what people want, chances are your customer service skills need some work! Not necessarily because you're bad at it - but most clients can sense when a person just generally doesn't enjoy working with others. Keep in mind that you don't have to be an extrovert to enjoy working with others. Although I consider myself introverted (I get more energy from being alone than from being with people) I truly enjoy the satisfaction and payoff of working with clients and customers. People can sense your willingness to help them and they appreciate your effort.
    • Follow Up
      Follow up with your clients, customers, business partners or cross-functional teams to ensure you are doing your job properly, and look for ways to improve processes that are lengthy or just plain not       working. Especially in a business environment, people tend to get caught up in "the way things are" without considering the possibility of challenging the status quo. If you see something that could be improved, take a risk and make a suggestion. If you're shot down, people will at least respect your willingness to share ideas. (Oh, and if you work in an environment where your ideas are never acknowledged, consider a new job.)
    • If you work on your own, you can change things up whenever you want! Just make sure to consider your clients' and customers' feedback before making big changes - for example, if you want to update your website, make sure your new format is user-friendly and easy to navigate. I know that if I visit a website and I can't find the information I need quickly and easily, I will move on and find someone else.

Overall, this is meant to be a helpful guide to understand the foundation of professionalism. What it really comes down to is consistency, reliability, friendliness and warmth, and the ability to admit fault and keep an open mind. With these traits, you can excel in any business venture.

I hope you find this helpful! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!