By Alex Hargreaves
When attending networking events, it is easy to feel intimidated by senior managers who are smooth talkers and know exactly what to say and when to say it. They seem to ooze confidence, command attention and are always dressed in the best. University students are completely allowed to be, and are even expected to be, a little awkward in these situations. It is good to keep in mind that senior leaders have usually been in their industry for a very long time and have gained a wealth of insight and experience into what they do. This extensive knowledge fuels their confidence when discussing their work with new people.
Nevertheless, if you would like to have an air of professionalism about you despite your lack of industry experience and/or age, this can definitely be achieved. When you put into practice the following skills, respect will instantly be earned!
- Look the Part
You don’t have to walk around wearing sky high pumps or a $200 suit every day to create a professional image, but you do have to take some time to ensure your outfit for the day doesn’t scream ‘slob’ or ‘ready to hit the club’. For ladies, the easiest way to do this is to dress modestly and ensure there is no cleavage showing and no creases or marks on clothes. Ballet flats, a pencil skirt and a blouse will do the trick. If you would like further inspiration on professional attire, check out our Pintrest Career Styles for Women. For gentlemen, a collared shirt and slacks are all it takes to create the assumption that you care about your appearance. You can get more ideas in our Pintrest Career Attire for Men.
- Clean up your Email Etiquette
You will thank yourself later if you get on top of your email etiquette now. There are several ways to improve your online correspondence, the first being tidying up your inbox. When you do eventually get a full time job, having an organized email inbox will do you the world of good. The less emails you have in your inbox, the easier it is to recognize what urgently needs to be responded to and prioritize. When your inbox is too full, it’s easy for important emails to get buried at the bottom and this will only cause undue stress. Creating labels, delegating your emails into categories and archiving old emails is the best way to achieve a simplified inbox. You can use Gmail’s step by step guide to clean up your Griffith inbox. As a student, you will be looked upon favourably if you respond quickly to emails and proof read everything before you send. This doesn’t just apply when you’re responding to potential employers. Lecturers, tutors and mentors will also be impressed if your email responses are fast, easy to read and free of spelling/grammatical errors.
- Keep up with Industry Trends
If you want to work in a certain industry, keep up with related statistics, news and events within your field. This is not only a great way to stay informed about your future career, but it will also help you to start interesting and meaningful conversations with professionals in your industry. It will be easier for you to attend networking events and have the courage to talk to senior leaders if you have some basic knowledge about current industry trends that you can use to leverage conversation starters. Asking questions about things you have heard or read about the industry will show that you are interested and informed and will give off a great impression to the employer.
- Have a Professional Social Media Presence
If you don’t have LinkedIn, it’s time to get one! LinkedIn is easy to use and incredibly effective for building your professional network. If you have no idea where to start, check out our Griffith LinkedIn E-Module. and learn how to create a professional profile. It’s great to attend networking events and take business cards, however, business cards are easy to loose and do not create any assurance that you will be in contact with the employer again. It is much more effective to ask employers you meet if you can add them on LinkedIn. This way, you can send them a follow up message to thank them for their time and keep up to date with each other’s content. It’s also important to clean up your personal social media profiles. You don’t have to make your Facebook page look like an advertisement for The Apprentice, but you do need to ensure there is no incriminating statuses/pictures that would make an employer question whether they should hire you. If you thought it was a funny idea to post that photo of you at schoolies face down on the beach with a circle of empty cruisers around you, maybe it’s time to rethink that. For more tips on cleaning up your social media, check out our ‘Spring Clean your Social Media Accounts‘ blog.
- Be Organized and On Time All the Time
When you hit the workforce, you can’t sneak into the office and go and take a seat at the back of the room like you would if you were late to a lecture. Being on time, if not early, is a basic requirement of having a job. If you want to have a glowing reputation for being punctual whilst still a student, the easiest way to do this is to be a little early for all of your tutes and lectures, social commitments and personal appointments. It’s great to show up on time, but if you arrive early to a tutorial without your homework or any of your textbooks, this won’t do any favours for your professional image. Before you leave to go anywhere, have a personal check list and make sure everything you need is ticked off before you leave the house. Not only will this make you seem really on the ball, but it will also take a lot of weight off your shoulders too!
Staying on top of these 5 professional attributes as a student will make them second nature to you later on when you need them the most. Not only this, but people you deal with on a regular basis now will notice and be impressed by your professionalism. As a result, they will be likely to put your name forward when suitable jobs open up. The earlier you start to develop professional habits, the easier the transition will be when you venture out into the big wide workforce.