Being taken seriously at work takes time and trust. Whether you’re the youngest, the least experienced, a new recruit – or all of the above – proving yourself can feel like an uphill challenge. The earlier you can prove yourself though, the sooner you’ll relax into the role and be able to perform to your best ability. We spoke with the career experts at CABA who offered their tips on gaining professional respect.
Dress the part
Most workplaces have a dress code, whether official or unofficial. If you ignore it and dress too casually or too flamboyantly, you risk looking unprofessional. Choose clothes that are appropriate for your work environment – if you want to be taken seriously, dress to standard.
If you have a tendency to arrive at work late or miss the start of meetings, your manager and colleagues will start losing respect for you. Revise your wake-up time if you have to, as the extra half hour in the morning could see you getting to work punctually. Even if you’re only occasionally late, it will be noticed, and eventually you’ll gain a reputation for having poor time management.
Make eye contact
If you’re keen to make a positive impression and engage people, try to look them in the eye when you’re talking to them. Avoiding eye contact altogether can make you appear secretive, mistrustful or simply uninterested.
Use positive body language
The right body language can make you appear more confident, experienced and professional – all traits that could help others take you more seriously. A University College London study recently found that women are more likely to be taken seriously at work if they adopt a strong, typically male stance (the so-called ‘power’ pose in the study included having feet shoulder width apart).
But there’s more to positive body language than ‘power’ stances. For instance, try to look straight ahead rather than down at the floor, sit or stand straight with your shoulders back instead of slouching, and adopt an ‘open’ posture rather than crossing your arms or legs. When you meet someone, greet them with a firm handshake.
If you have something interesting or important to say during a meeting or while speaking with colleagues, don’t be shy and keep it to yourself. Your confidence will impress, while your ideas could spark off further points for discussion. Speak calmly and clearly with an even tone. Employ professional language – try not to swear or use slang or casual words, as you may appear unprofessional.
On the other hand, don’t feel you need to say something for the sake of it. Stay quiet and listen to what others are saying if you know you can’t offer anything valuable. It’s better to say nothing than to blurt out something foolish or inappropriate. But do ask intelligent questions, as it shows you’re engaged in what’s being discussed.
Good manners go a long way; Behaving rudely or inconsiderately isn’t going to win you any fans at your workplace. Similarly with social media, manners are essential. Never write anything derogatory about the company you work for, your boss or colleagues online – you may not think anyone will notice but, chances are, someone will.
Try not to turn up to meetings unprepared or underprepared. Get a good grasp of what’s being discussed beforehand. When you think you’ve prepared sufficiently, do that little bit more. People tend to pay attention to those who are knowledgeable, so all your efforts won’t go unnoticed. At the same time don’t brag – if you try too hard to impress, you may be perceived as arrogant and obnoxious.
Play up your skills
Consider working on skills that will get you noticed. Which skills does your organisation value? Focus on building these. The skills don’t have to be technical ones, as companies also need employees with strong ‘soft skills’ such as problem-solving, ability to adapt well to change and being a good communicator.
If you already possess the skills your company values, share these with your employer and co-workers. For example, you could offer to take on a project or seek out other opportunities that enable you to showcase your skills and bring them to others’ attention. Once people associate you with certain superior skills, your opinions will be valued all the more.
Whether you’re starting out in your career, recently moved to a new company or want to revitalise colleagues’ opinion of you, it’s important to remember that anyone – regardless of age, gender or status – can be affected by a lack of recognition, even if they’ve been in the business for decades.
Whether you’re just starting out, getting back to work, changing direction or launching a business, CABA offers an extensive range of career services – simply visit caba.org.uk.