Database Star

Practical advice for database developers

be more professional at workProfessionalism in the IT world is desirable. Some people have it, some don’t. The ones that do have it, the ones that are professional, are treated with more respect and are usually better at their jobs.

Below, I share five tips that you can use to be more professional in your workplace.

Dress Code

Wherever you work, your employer or client will most likely have specified a dress code, or a standard of clothing that should be worn by all employees while at work. This could be something less formal such as nice jeans and a polo shirt, or even a suit, shirt and tie, or anywhere in between. To be viewed and treated professionally, it is important that you stick to this dress code.

That means, if you’ve been asked to wear a polo shirt and jeans for work, wear a polo shirt and jeans. Don’t wear thongs and a t-shirt with worn-out jeans. Don’t wear long shorts with shoes. If you are however asked to wear a shirt and trousers, don’t come to work wearing a polo shirt and jeans.

If you adhere to the standard of dress that your employer or client expects, you’ll not only be treated more professionally, your co-workers and managers will notice that you’re taking your job seriously.

An exception to this tip is if your workplace has casual Fridays!


Punctuality to Meetings

Meetings are set up so a group of people can gather and discuss a topic or issue and come to a resolution or plan. They have a set start and end time – which is usually determined by the availability of the attendees, the availability of the room the meeting is being held in, and the estimated time to discuss the issue. For these reasons, it is expected that the attendees will arrive at the meeting on time (have a read of some more effective meeting tips here).

Arriving on time means, funnily enough, “on time”. It doesn’t mean five minutes after the meeting has started. It surely doesn’t mean fifteen minutes into the meeting. It means at the scheduled time. If it’s a 10:00 meeting, arrive at 10:00, or even a couple of minutes earlier if able.

If you arrive late to meetings, it gives the impression you don’t care much for the topic that’s being discussed. It shows a lack of respect and the other attendees may be irritated by this. If it happens on a regular basis, the meeting holders may even start the meetings without you, meaning you miss out on the discussion on the topic or issue, which could have an impact on your work!

Alternatively, if you always arrive a few minutes early, or on time to meetings, other people will see this as being professional, and shown to treat the other meeting attendees with respect.


Arrive Before Nine, Leave After Five

The usual work day begins at 9 AM and finishes at 5 PM. Your employer or client is likely to expect you to work within these hours, or hours similar to this. This is so you can perform the required work for the day around your co-workers, which may be affected by the work you do, and be involved in discussions about your work.

For this reason, it’s important to work within these hours. If your boss expects you to be at work at 9:00 AM, then be at work by (you guessed it) 9:00 AM at the latest. Don’t stroll into the office at 9:15 or 9:30 after you grab your morning coffee. Every now and then may be OK  if your boss is aware of it and if there are unusual circumstances that cause you to be late. If it’s done consistently, though, it will get noticed very quickly by both your boss and your co-workers. They may be waiting for you to get something done or for information from you before they can work on something.

Similarly, your employer or client may expect you to work until 5 PM, so don’t pack up and leave at 4:50, or 4:30. This will also get noticed very quickly if it happens consistently. It may not seem like much to you – a few minutes here and there – but it’s a reflection of the attitude you have towards your work and is not very professional. Also, leaving at 5 PM exactly will give the impression that you have been “counting down” towards 5 PM, not actually doing any productive work up until then and just want to get out of the office – which is not a good signal to give. It’s also good for getting a pay rise or a promotion.

Ideally, the best thing you can do is arrive BEFORE your designated start time, and leave AFTER your start time. Fifteen minutes would be ideal – arriving at 8:45 and leaving at 5:15. Even five minutes is OK – arriving at 8:55 and leaving at 5:05. Of course this means you spend a bit longer at work, but it goes a long way to show your co-workers and your boss that you’re professional in what you do.


Professional Attitude and Conversation

Your attitude at work goes a long way to show how professional you are. This involves both the conversations you have with your co-workers, and the way you go about your job.

The conversations you have with your co-workers, and the conversations you have with everyone else in your life are likely to be very different. The details of a big night out that you discuss with your mates are generally not appropriate to discuss with co-workers on a Monday morning. The discussions with your partner about your personal life are also generally not appropriate to bring up at work.

I use the term “generally” because it depends on the relationship you have with your co-workers. In some cases, you may have a close personal relationship with your co-workers and it may extend beyond the office – you may get together at family events, or go out for drinks with friends after work. However, in most cases, it’s a professional environment where the discussion topics should be considered first. The story about how drunk you got on a Saturday night and where you ended up on Sunday morning may be a great one to tell your friends, but it’s something that should be kept untold when around your boss or co-workers. They will think it’s unprofessional to discuss these things.


Split Personal and Work Time

Everyone has a life outside of work. You may have other interests, such as sport or entertainment. You may have a partner or family to go home to. You will probably have friends you’d like to meet up with or talk to. You may even have other things to organise, like a holiday or financial arrangements or a birthday party.

It’s certainly not unacceptable to have these commitments outside of work. How you deal with them, though, is a reflection on your work attitude. If you need to make personal calls (calls not related to your job), a few points should be followed:

  • Keep them to a minimum during work hours. Making calls on your lunch break is preferred.
  • Don’t use the company’s phone on your desk – use your mobile if you can.
  • Step away from your desk to receive or make these calls, if you can. Sometimes this can’t be done, such as calls that need you to be at a desk or at a computer for them.
  • If you need to make calls at your desk, be considerate of other people around you, and keep your voice at an appropriate level. Also, don’t use the speaker phone from your desk. This will quickly irritate your co-workers.

Separating the calls or tasks you need to do for personal reasons and for work reasons while at work will show your boss and co-workers that you are respectful of others and will see you as being professional.


Well, there you have it. Five tips that will hopefully make you feel more professional in your job.

Coming next – five tips on unprofessional behaviours you should avoid in the workplace

Feel free to leave a comment or question below, or share any other tips you have on acting professional in the workplace!

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