17 Professional Behaviors Students Can Start Now to Attract Employers
Professional behaviors are a set of guidelines for how one is to act and interact in the performance of their duties, whatever those duties may be. But you don’t have to have a job – nor ever have had a job – to start using them to your advantage.
When you’re in high school and college, the workforce may seem a long way off. But it’s not too early to start exhibiting some of the behaviors we’ll be covering in this article. Let’s get going.
Getting Ready for the Workforce
Teachers do their best to prepare you for a future employer. But they’re limited in a few ways. One, they have to teach every student the same thing in spite of the fact many students are on different intelligence levels. The advanced students get bored and the less-than-advanced students struggle to keep up with common knowledge and practices.
This leads to a lot of you getting burned out with school and losing interest in a hurry. Lost interest can damage your will. Practicing professional behaviors, however, can keep you on track. Here are 17 to get you going.
1. Learn Introductions
Some people aren’t good at introducing themselves properly. Particularly if you’re shy in public or naturally introverted, you’re going to want to avoid this practice. Big mistake.
If you want to prepare for the workforce early so that you’re ready for it when it gets here, then learn the art of introducing yourself. Use eye contact, a firm handshake that rises to the level of force the other person uses, and tell them your name.
That simple. In so doing, it will set a conversation in motion that can lead to quality networking connections. But even if it doesn’t, at least you learn the practice. That gives you something to build on as you converse with more and more people.
2. Declutter Your Life
Clutter doesn’t only junk up our physical space. It also trashes our collective mentality. The quickest way to set your mind right is to clean it out of your life. From there, new avenues for learning and productivity open up.
Best of all, it doesn’t take nearly as long as you think. Provided you’re willing to take the first step, some of the worst messes around the house, dorm room, or apartment can be cleaned up completely in two to three hours. That’s not a lot to ask for what it gives you in return.
3. Make Studying Your 9-5
We’re not saying you have to study eight hours per day. That could be tough with all your other obligations. But we are saying you should set aside blocks of time throughout the day – break them up or keep them together – where your primary focus is on nothing else but becoming more knowledgeable in your content area.
4. Take a Risk
This could be a physical risk like skydiving or a financial risk like starting your own business. Choose something where you could either win big or lose big and put it all on the line.
Obviously, you’ll want to take every precaution when doing things that might be considered dangerous. Don’t be stupid. Be risky. There’s a difference. And the act of knowing that difference can help you learn how to take calculated risks when you progress into your career.
5. Enter the Workforce
Sometimes the best way to prepare for the workforce and learn to become more professional is to take a job doing anything. Whatever you choose, even if you hate it, do it well. Giving your all even when you’re not inspired will teach you a lot about yourself and open more doors professionally.
6. Interact with Your Professors Outside of Class
Your professors present one side of themselves in class. But if you get to know them outside of class, you can start to respect one another as individuals. Why is that important?
For starters, you’ll know where your superiors are coming from when they give you an order or directive. Secondly, you’ll be able to agree and disagree in a manner that respects the other’s opinion. It’s really a way to open discussion, discover boundaries, and work well within them.
7. Create a Vision Statement
Some interviewers will ask you about your “five-year plan.” You don’t need the entire thing mapped out, but it is useful to think about where you want to be in life one, three, five, and even 10 years down the road.
In fact, thinking of your life in 10-year chunks can give you a clear sense of progression and open you up to the smaller accomplishments you’ll need to reach before getting to the ultimate goal.
So sit down with a pen and paper. Write out where you want your life to be in 10 years personally and professionally. Then, reverse-engineer those goals step-by-step to figure out where you need to be when you reach each benchmark.
8. Improve Your Financial Literacy
Financial literacy means learning never to borrow more than you need. It means realizing credit cards are not real money but they will cost you plenty of money in interest rates and fees.
When you’re in college or high school, you have the benefit of being able to pay cash for everything because you don’t have enough credit history or access to owe a lot of money to anyone. Keep it that way for as long as possible. And don’t borrow any money at all unless it’s somehow going to make you more marketable.
9. Create a Home Away from Home
Living in a dorm or apartment may not seem like home when all your stuff is still at Mom and Dad’s and you’re going home every weekend. But it can be if you put in the time to customize your living quarters and give it comforts and decor that are uniquely you.
It’s important that you stop thinking about “home” as where your parents are, especially when you get in college. Because, over the next few short years, you’re going to be making important life decisions designed to separate you from them forever.
That doesn’t mean your relationship has to end or that you have to quit going to see them. But it does mean you’ll need to stand on your own two feet to become successful in a professional sense. You start that by making a home where you are to go along with your other forms of independence.
10. Learn Soft Skills
Soft skills go beyond content expertise. They’re things like how you interact with people, observing rules of etiquette, and knowing when to take a challenge on without being told.
Employers today want soft skills even more than an educational background because they know people with a good grasp of these skills are teachable. And the workplace changes so dramatically that this type of flexibility is essential.
11. Try Hard Skills As Well
Learn to work with your hands. Take on a project you never envisioned doing. Something out of your comfort zone. YouTube your way through it if you have to. Just teach yourself to do it.
Whatever it is doesn’t have to be the best ever. It just has to be competent and carried out with your own will and skill. This will help instill confidence that you can take on any future challenge.
12. Start a Job-Shadow
Seeing how people make their money day-to-day can teach you so many things that a classroom never could. Ideally, you should find people who are already doing something similar to what you want to be doing. They could be in your hometown, your college town, or even way across the country.
Ask them if they’d mind allowing you to come in for one workday – preferably one that they know will be eventful – and allow you to simply observe them. It’s not weird. They’ve been there and done it, too, and the chances are pretty good they’ll be flattered that you asked.
13. Develop an Online Brand
Claim your plot of Internet real estate. Start by registering YourName.com. Connect all your social profiles to it. Think about what you want it to say about who you are as a person and a professional. Do everything with the mindset of, “Would I hire this person?”
Then, return to that question every time you make a new post on social media or publish a thought on your website or blog. That’s how your employer thinks, and creating an online brand forces you to think that way as well.
14. Think About Switching Your Major
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should switch majors. Just that you should think about it. Why is that important?
You’re going to be encountering a lot of colliding facts and information as you progress through your educational journey. Some of those will be terribly interesting and might even divert your attention to another field of study.
You owe it to yourself to explore these possibilities. The act of exploration will either redirect you to a career that makes sense or solidify the reasons you chose your initial major in the first place. Either way, it’s a win-win, and one that has far-reaching implications for the remainder of your life. Take the time necessary to think it through.
15. Learn to Understand Yourself
Psychologists claim the adult brain isn’t “fully-formed” until the age of 25. Even then, the person you are at 30 will be different than the one you become at 25. Nature is part of it, but so is how we’re shaped by the events of our lives.
Consider taking an in-depth personality test like the Meyers-Briggs to get a sense of who you are as a person. You also might consider in seeking the guidance of a counselor if there are difficult issues in life that you’ve yet to work through.
16. Open Your Mind
What prejudices do you have? Why do you have them? Try to find people that aren’t like you and interact with them. Befriend them. See if you can experience the world through their eyes to get a grasp on what made them who they are.
What life experiences were they born with and which ones came about through their own decisions and circumstances? Now put yourself in their shoes to see if you can understand why they are the people they are. And after you’re done, try to observe your own life path in the same manner. Would you be the same person if this or that hadn’t happened the way that it did?
These are the things you need to do to open your mind. And the act of doing so will enrich your life in more ways than you’ll be able to count.
17. Think of Who Inspires You
Do you have a list of heroes and role models? Are they famous people or people in your day-to-day life? It’s okay if they’re a mix of both. Just identify them and write down what it is about each one that inspires you. If you need help getting started, search for “inspiring quotes” and make note of the ones that really resonate.
Professional Behaviors Are Not As Easy As They Seem
Professional behaviors can get complicated depending on which field you plan to enter into. Even so, the 17 tips we’ve presented here will help you develop the proper mindset for success no matter what you end up doing. And you can start putting them to use right now to stay ahead of your competition. Good luck!
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