Just as practice makes perfect, being professional doesn’t happen overnight. It is a constant craft, continually evolving. It doesn’t matter your industry or occupation-- if you want to emanate professionalism, you must be disciplined about maintaining it.
As an entrepreneur, we know you don’t have all day to study up on how to be more professional. You have deadlines to meet, you fall asleep smartphone-in-hand, and you can barely remember the last time you actually relaxed.
Your life has become a balancing act; a giant Jenga tower that grows taller each day, getting riskier with each additional inch. The thought of adding more blocks to the top can be scary and overwhelming, but don’t worry - we can help you!
We’ve put together a list of quick fixes to enhance your professional side, organized entirely by how much time you have to spare.
If You Have Ten Minutes...
Clean up your social media presence.
It’s no secret that potential employers look beyond your resume when considering you, but customers are often looking, too. Think of your online presence as a way to curate your own personal brand. Take ten minutes to go through your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc.
Update all your profile pictures, comb through your photos to make sure there aren’t any of you with a cocktail (or two), share a page or post a status about your business, or revise your personal bio to something career-centric.
A good rule to have: always ask yourself before signing out of your profile, “would I be okay if my boss or my client saw this?”
Post, post, post.
Show that you’re enthusiastic about what’s happening in your industry by following some of its big names (small names work too!) on Twitter, or liking them on Facebook.
Want to get a few tweets or posts out quickly but not sure what to say? Try setting up an IFTTT recipe. IFTTT stands for, “If This, Then That.' It’s an online service dedicated to making your life easier by taking all the apps you love and connecting them.
For example, I wanted to tweet a link to our Grasshopper blog every time we put up a new post, so I went to IFTTT.com and created the recipe, “if this [if there is a new Grasshopper blog post], then that [then post it on my Twitter feed].
Because of this recipe, tweets get sent out from my account automatically:
10 Quick Ways to Make Your Small Business Seem Legit http://t.co/I63rnEJXe1
— Laurel Ganem (@LaurelGanem) December 23, 2013
These posting recipes are simple, save time and effort, and work for all kinds of web applications. I even have one that texts me what the weather will be tomorrow!
Keep your LinkedIn fresh.
Once you’ve filtered through your college photos on Facebook and removed any risqué Instagrams, log into your LinkedIn and get to work. Regular updates of job duties are essential, as is staying on top of your network connections. Take your ten minutes to look up all the people you’ve met in the past few months and add them. Don’t be shy!
When it comes to your recommendations, make sure they aren’t just flattering fluff; avoid blurbs like, “Gary was such a great person to work with. He was hard working and performed well. He is creative, doesn't give up easily, and is an asset to any company” that don’t include specifics or examples of how your personal actions positively affected your company or co-workers. Here’s an example of what a strong, credible endorsement looks like:
If You Have an Afternoon...
Spiff up your look.
Although more and more companies are boasting “no dress codes” and allowing every day to be Casual Friday, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spiff up your closet. If you want to be more professional, you’re going to want to look the part as well.
Take an afternoon to browse stores like J. Crew, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Zara or Banana Republic for business attire such as blazers, dress pants, pantsuits, button-downs etc. If you feel a little lost, consider hiring a personal stylist! A lot of times, department stores like Nordstrom or Macy’s will offer the services of a personal stylist right in the store. All you need to do is call and they’ll take it from there!
Don’t forget that looking professional goes beyond just dressing well. If you show up with stuff in your teeth, dirt under your fingernails, or even just a scrubby notebook, people won’t take you as seriously. Make sure your personal presentation wows everyone as much as your PowerPoint will.
Set up a career-related website.
One of the best ways to self-promote is by setting up a personal website that portrays you as a business asset. Try using Do-It-Yourself website builders like WordPress, Weebly or Squarespace. Don’t know code? Don’t worry! They have plenty of ready-made templates for you, most of which are very inexpensive or even free, along with 24/7 customer support.
In keeping with the theme of branding yourself, your website should represent the reasons why a company in your desired industry would want to hire you or why a customer would want to buy from you. This isn’t to say that you should redisplay your resume onto yet another internet page; this site is an opportunity to showcase all the things you can’t fit on your CV that still portray you as a dynamic and talented individual of the business world. Here’s a good example:
This website is great because it provides an opportunity for Katie to actually showcase her talents instead of just listing them, which she would have been limited to on a resume.
Get head-shots taken.
With a free afternoon, why not have a little photo shoot? With the accessibility of cameras and photo sharing these days, there is an incredible abundance of pictures out there, the majority of which are casual and impromptu. A professional head-shot will stand out among those, and can change the way you represent both yourself and even the company you own or work for. You can use them on your LinkedIn profile, your company website, or the professional site you made for yourself earlier that same afternoon!
[caption id='attachment_13369' align='alignnone' width='374'] Professional Headshots for Don & Mark[/caption]
To find a reputable photographer in your area, don’t be afraid to turn to sites like Yelp or Thumbtack. They will give you a jumping-off point at the least, and it never hurts to check out local reviews.
Pro-tip: When we had picture day here at Grasshopper, David, our photographer, told us to avoid the color pink (it’s a difficult color to work with from a photography perspective) and to wear something comfortable. If you’re comfortable, you’ll feel good!
If You Have an Evening...
Books, blogs and websites relating to your industry or trade are resources that contain an incredible amount of wisdom. Most professional and technical books out there are written by people who have gone through years of trial and error already, and want to teach their peers about what they’ve learned.
If you’re not sure where to start, go with a well-known read such as Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Seth Godin’s The Dip, or Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week. In addition to these books, many business authors also have personal blogs. If there is a book that looks interesting but just a tad too long, check to see if the author has a website (Seth Godin's is my favorite). Chances are the same wisdom that exists in the book also exists online in a slightly more condensed manner.
By blog or by book, take an evening to absorb their stories and perspectives and it’ll be as if you had a private session with an entrepreneurial mentor!
Want more? You might like our post on 7 unconventional books for entrepreneurs.
Attend a networking event.
As an entrepreneur, it’s not news that networking is a crucial activity that directly correlates to your success. Building relationships will keep your business up and running! One of the easiest ways to do this is to attend an event with people who share your business (or personal) interests, and let nature run its course. You will leave with connections, knowledge and plenty of opportunities, and you will have introduced your own business endeavors to countless people!
To find these events, check out sites like Meetup.com or Job-hunt.org, which list networking events by zip code or state. Your local library will often have job search resources which include networking events, as will professional associations such as the ABA (American Bar Association) for attorneys or the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) for HR professionals. Don’t forget to scour your LinkedIn groups for events too!
If you're having trouble finding an event, we're happy to help. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and Taylor, our Ambassador of Buzz, will assist you.
Speak at a conference, workshop or seminar.
Giving back is a great way to boost your professionalism. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to show that you really are an expert and live your own brand. By signing up to speak about your expertise and personal journey, you are encouraging others and contributing to a community. You can start small; most of the time, high schools and colleges are thrilled to have alumni come speak. Why not start with your alma mater?
Now, Go to it!
So, whether you have a little time to kill before an appointment, had an unexpected cancellation, or you simply didn’t make dinner plans for once, give some of these suggestions a try. Your Jenga tower will not only become taller, but more stabilized with fancier blocks.
Not convinced? Let me know some tricks you think would strengthen someone’s professional persona!