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7 Tips on Being the Right Kind of Professional at Work

7 Tips on Being the Right Kind of Professional at Work
From Recruiter - December 13, 2016

Article by Karin Vandraiss

A few minutes into my morning commute, I glanced up from my book and inwardly groaned. When I should have been looking out across the water at the Seattle skyline, I was headed down an unfamiliar side street toward a neighborhood nowhere near my office.

I pulled out my phone to send my boss a quick email: Good morning, just wanted to let you know Ill be in a few minutes late. Bus trouble! She shot back a cheery, No problem, see you soon! I then sent my coworker a text with a few choice words and emojis about my inability to master public transportation.

After nearly a year at my current job, I know its customary to send a note if youll be arriving significantly later than usual as a courtesy. Although my boss and I are on very friendly terms, a quick email is more appropriate than textingbut I do have friends who wouldnt think twice about sending their boss a text, emojis and all, or wouldnt have sent an update in the first place because that would be considered overkill in their office.

No two company cultures are quite the same, and figuring out what professional means in your officeor even just on your immediate teamisnt always easy.Professionalism will differ depending on your line of work as wellfor example, my internal emails laden with Full House gifs probably wouldnt fly at my best friends law firm.

It took me a few weeks of careful observation to get the lay of the land at my new job. To do so, I had to observe everythingfrom what my new coworkers were wearing to whether they took lunch or ate at their desks. I took mental notes (more trendy jeans than traditional business casual wear; same went for going out versus working through lunch). A similar mentality seemed to apply to communication style as well, which leaned toward casual rather than overly formal.

I took particular note of the emails I was receiving, because today there is such a thing as being too professional. Although theres still a time and place for formalities, most people I work with have adopted a more business casual approach to communication (both in person and from behind a computer), one that makes it seem like youre actually interacting with another human being rather than a robot.

But findingthat perfect combination of personable and consummate professional is a learned skill. Luckily, I happen to work with a few people who seem to have mastered the concept, and Ive picked up a few things from them:

The Art of the Email

Navigating the subtle nuances of email is an art form; one punctuation misstep and things can go downhill quickly. Ionce spent a full day agonizing over a five-line email, my finger hovering over send like the free world depended on my message being executed perfectly.

1. Watch Your Tone

Although you shouldnt give any email that much thought, you should think a little aboutthe tone youre going for inthe message and the appropriate level of formality. When first writing someone, I aim for conversational, letting my personal voice show through while retaining the basic elements of formality, like a proper greeting, punctuation, spelling, etc. Depending on the response, Ill adjust my correspondence accordingly. In my experience, matching another persons tone can often make for better communication. (But dont feel the need to sacrifice your intellectual integrity for someone intent on typingu instead of you.)

2. The Period Is No Longer Neutral

You can feel the chill from across the office when someone sends you a sentence purposefully cut short with a period. Once unthreatening, this punctuation mark can now convey a healthy dose of snark, sternness, or even aggression. Take a second glance at your next message to make sure that period doesnt make you sound unintentionally menacing or uptight.

3. Its Okay to Use Exclamation Points (Sparingly)



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