In 11th and 12th grades, I attended (and currently attend) a pre-college interdisciplinary program.
I go there for half a school day, and receive education in classes focused on sustainability, manufacturing and clean technologies. I get most of my high school graduation requirements, as well as several college credits, as I take college classes while I’m there as well.
It can be a lot.
But, I love it. I have gotten the opportunity to study real-world subjects and learn about problems that affect all of us each day. It’s easy for me to forget that not everyone learns the same things that I do when I return back to my home high school. (I take college level Spanish and Calculus there.)
Next to the subjects I take, the thing I learn the most about is how to act in a professional atmosphere.
The building we have school in frequently hosts seminars, conferences, presentations, and workshops for professionals in a variety of fields.
In the relatively short time I’ve been there, I’ve been asked to speak to media groups, groups of business leaders and educators, and even at a Manufacturing Week press conference.
This isn’t a coincidence. Along the way, I’ve developed my sense of what gets you ahead professionally.
If you’re just starting out, or are about to attend a professional event that you’re nervous about, then this list will help you get on the fast track to feeling comfortable in business casual.
Being early/on time to any event is a great habit to get into. You never want to interrupt an event because you weren’t on time. It just doesn’t look good.
Unless otherwise specified, it’s good to be 15-20 minutes early to any events or appointments you may go to. It will give you more time to chat, relax, and prepare if need be for what’s next!
CLEAN UP YOUR EMAIL
Email is the texting of the professional world. If someone wants to contact you, they’re going to go through your email.
Your email can serve as a first impression. For example, how would you feel about someone if their email was johnsmith[at]harvard.edu versus johnny[at]yahoo.com.
I’m not saying you have to go to Harvard to make a good first impression, but you want to have a simple, clean email. Not the one you made up when you were 9 to play games online.
See some examples of professional email addresses in this post!
RELATED POST: 10 THINGS TO LEARN BEFORE GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL
UPDATE YOUR LINKEDIN
If email is the texting of the professional world, then LinkedIn is definitely the Instagram. It provides potential bosses, clients, and peers with an overview of your professional life.
Job openings, event information, and insider articles are only a few of the many valuable things using LinkedIn can provide for you professionally.
LinkedIn is the best place to share the highlights of your career and education. Things to feature on your profile include
- current and past jobs and internships
- awards or recognitions
- projects you have been involved in
- organizations you are affiliated with
- schools you have attended
- people you know
Pro tip: make sure you turn your update notifications OFF. You don’t want to alert all your connections every time you change your profile.
PERFECT YOUR HANDSHAKE
Your handshake is often one of the several components of a first impression.
You almost don’t want someone you meet to remember your handshake, because if they do, its likely because it was noticeably bad.
Luckily, having a good handshake really isn’t that tough. First, be confident!
Second, keep it short and simple. Your handshake doesn’t need any flash or excessive movement.
And lastly, don’t crush the person’s hand in yours, but don’t let your hand lay limp either. To get the right degree of firmness, squeeze their hand about as hard as you would if you picked up a glass of water.
learn to exit a conversation
The ability to tell someone you have to stop talking them without making them feel ditched is truly an impressive skill.
At networking events, everyone has several people to talk to. You can’t spend an hour talking to each one of them.
The problem is, not everyone is brave enough to leave a conversation when they really need to move on to another. You can learn with a little help from this post. You’ll look like a pro when you leave someone feeling heard and like you enjoyed talking to them. Plus, they’ll probably be glad they didn’t have to end the conversation.
Yes, you read that correctly.
If you want to be taken more seriously and give off the impression that you are experienced and competent, chances are you need to talk slower.
A lot of times, you can tell when someone is nervous, because they’ll speak too quickly and won’t think over their words before they say them. This can result in run-on sentences and fumbling over words.
But you’re better than that. Breathe, think, and try to slow down your sentences just a tad. You won’t sound as slow as you might think. You’ll sound composed and confident, and hey, super professional.