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Put The “Pro In Professionalism”

Professionals discussing over a white table

Professionalism is a learned skill, not an innate quality. Often, recruiters can determine your level of professionalism within your first 5 minutes of speaking.  Learning how to act professionally is something everyone must do at some point and is critical in today’s business world.

People dress and behave differently in different contexts.  You would act much differently in your uniform on the field than if you were suited up in an office for a job interview. You wouldn’t high-five the interviewer, you would greet him or her with a firm handshake. Just as you would not do a victory dance in the manager’s office when offered a job (though it is perfectly acceptable to do this at home).  A professional environment is governed by certain rules and codes of conduct just like an athletic game, a baby shower, and even a nighttime party. It would be extremely unprofessional, and not to mention awkward, to confuse “twerking” to be short for “networking” at your business networking picnic.

Professionalism is important as it affects hiring, retention, and promotion decisions. It’s about adapting to your environment and following the rules of the game.  Being professional is about Being Your Best Self in your respective environment.  The professional job seeker with a Bright Shiny Penny attitude is going to have much more success in the job search than someone who lacks professionalism and is constantly sad, tired, and or angry.  They are more likely to retain their job and get promoted when they have learned to act professionally at work.  A professional takes their job seriously, they can be trusted with responsibility and they respect the workplace and their co-workers.  They keep their personal and professional lives separate. They wear clean, pressed, and appropriate clothing for their work environment, maintain good eye contact, and are polite.

Acting unprofessional can derail your career and impede your job search. This can include: wearing inappropriate clothing, speaking about inappropriate topics of discussion, using your cell phone on the job or during interviews, poor communication skills, and bad mouthing clients and coworkers. What does your behavior and mannerisms say about you? What messages are you giving others by the way to you act, speak, and dress? And in terms of appropriate attire,  it is a good rule of thumb to dress one level above the job you are interviewing for.  If you are going on for an interview for an office position then wearing a suit would be prudent.  And if you’re interviewing for a restaurant, then business casual will do. Besides dressing right, acting professional during the interview is crucial. Small talk can be a good icebreaker because it will help to get to know your co-workers, but there are topics that should be off limits.  These include politics, religion, and income.  It should also be said that personal affairs should be left at home, and not be wandering around in the workplace.

Having coached and interviewed many clients in my professional career I can tell you the candidate who lacks in professionalism does not progress, no matter how qualified.  For example, I had a client who looked amazing on paper; his resume outlined his skills perfectly; his cover letter was the perfect supplement to his resume by explaining why he wanted the job, why he was the best candidate, and it showed his skills with relevant examples and was a great sample of his writing ability.  Where he had trouble was his lack of soft skills.  Professionalism is one of many soft skills employers look for when making hiring and promotion decisions.  He looked great on paper but when speaking to him in person he was not selling himself well.  He would go into long diatribes regarding the government, and his demeanor was lethargic.  When I brought up ideas to help him, he became cynical.   These are not qualities of a professional and will not win over a hiring manager. Be aware of your mindset when going in to meet an employer or client.  Mentally check yourself, are you putting your best foot forward? Are you being your best self?

All the different forms unprofessional behavior would present roadblocks in one’s professional development but there is one thing they all have in common, you can control them. This ability to develop professionally is inherent within everyone.  I teach this topic along with many others in my professional career and I am delighted to see my clients grow empowered to move ahead in their careers.

-Andrew R. Ko


Emotional Intelligence

I figure by now everyone has a list of resolutions in front of them… What ever they may be don’t worry,  you don’t have to start them all at the same time.  I have many myself and for most people these resolutions boil down to helping you become the best self you can be. You want to take positive and proactive steps to becoming your best self.  That is why you’re here.  I want to start the year on the topic of Emotional Intelligence.  “Emotional Intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotion as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence. “ – Robert K. Cooper and Ayman Sawaf, Executive EQ

Let me start with a story I used to open a speech I gave at a dinner event for a nonprofit here in Los Angeles.
A man went to buy an expensive talking parrot from a pet store one day.  He paid $1,000 for this special talking parrot.  When he got it home the parrot started talking but the words that cam out of its mouth were all insults and curse words directed at the man.  Them man politely ask the parrot to stop but the parrot persisted.  The man asked again to please stop but the parrot got louder.  The man, noticeably getting agitated told the parrot to stop cursing.  The parrot, getting even louder continued and started even making up curse words that don’t even exist.  Finally the man loosing all his patience grabbed the parrot rom its cage, stomped over to the freezer and opened the door pushed aside the ice cube tray and frozen chicken and placed the parrot in the freezer and slammed the door.  The parrot continued to squawk and curse loudly and then suddenly it became silent.  The man, pleased with the result walked over to the freezer and opened the door.  The parrot slowly walked out up the man’s arm and began to speak: “I’m sorry sir, we seem to have gotten of on the wrong foot.  I apologize if my language offended you.  I want you to know I deeply regret it and I have the utmost respect for you.”  The man thought to himself: “this is more like it!” The parrot spoke again: “I just have one question: What did the Chicken do?”
What this story satirically illustrates is the realty that some people have when communicating with others.   They don’t recognize the social cues given to them when engaging with each other.  Someone with a high level of Emotional Intelligence or “EQ” (think IQ) can use empathy to read others’ emotions without them having to tell them what they are feeling.  This social intelligence is our ability to monitor our own and others’ emotions.   When we have achieved this we can then differentiate among these emotions and use the information to guide our thinking, actions, and responses.  Someone with a high level of EQ will effectively be able to respond to tough questions or difficult people rather than react.
Think of our brain in three parts.  There is the Cerebrum, (the part that make us human) the Limbic system, (the source of our emotional responses) and the Brainstem Medulla (our first brains).   Our Cerebrum is the part of the brain that make us human.  This part of the brain deals with decision-making, problem solving, vision, hearing memory, and language.  The Limbic System – The processor of many of our emotional reactions, especially our life sustaining ones, which have to do with aggression. Incoming cognitions arrive here first and if the emotions are over whelming, go no further.  The oldest part of the brain is the Brainstem Medulla – This is located at the top of our spine and virtually identical to the brain of a reptile. It governs consciousness, breathing, and heart rate.   So imagine you’re walking through your home at night in the dark and you stub your toe on a table or you step on a LEGO with your bare feet.  The first part of your brain that triggers is the Limbic system when wen you yell out load at the pain.  The part of the brain that allows you to reason and not kick the table or through the LEGOs out the window is the Cerebrum.   It keeps our emotions in check.  It allows us to make decisions and not turn into a angry rage monster for every time we’re in pain.
EQ has four competencies. 
Self-Awareness -The ability to recognize your emotions as they happen. 
Self-Management – The ability to manage and productively harness you emotions and not let them control you. 
Social Awareness – The ability to read the emotional state o others. 
Relationship Management – The ability to handle interpersonal relationships. 
To recognize your feelings as they occur is the fundamental key to EQ.  Once you’ve got this you’ll be able to recognize your own emotions and understand the causes of your feelings. 
Let’s take on our resolutions with enthusiasm! I’m managing one of mine right now as I write.  
Make it a great day.