Recently I was invited to dinner with a New York Times and Wall Street Journal #1 Best Selling Author. After a quick introduction of everyone at the table, he told a story about a 5 second encounter with a young man that went badly. His story about this young man drove home the importance of 5 things every professional should do. Check it out!
I was honored to be sitting at the table that night. Our host had accomplished things in his professional career that I am just beginning to work towards in mine. I was the youngest person at the table by about 25 years, so my eyes and ears were wide open and ready to soak in all the wisdom that would be shared over a steak dinner.
Anonymous Hallway Guy
With such an age gap between me and the others at the table, it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn towards the differences — or problems — with the multi-generational workforce we have in today’s world.
Our host, Ben (fake name used for anonymity), listened as others around the table talked about boomers, millennials, gen Z, etc. After a few minutes he jumped in, “Today I was walking through the building and up to my office. I met a young man walking towards me in a hallway, he was looking down at his phone. As we walked closer to one another, my head was up and I was ready to speak. As we came within inches of each other, I realized he was not going to look up…and he didn’t. He had headphones in and I assume he didn’t hear me say hello. I even turned and looked behind me for just a second–to give him the benefit of the doubt– to make sure he wasn’t going to speak. Nope, he didn’t look up, let alone speak.”
Ben was upset with the young man and others at the table resonated with his story and told similar stories of their own.
I have no doubt that every time Ben sees the anonymous hallway guy that he will remember what he didn’t do that day. He will also remember what he did do–he left Ben with a bad taste in his mouth for him and for others who are around his age.
It was obvious by everyone’s reaction at the table to the story Ben told, that the five things I believe every professional should do–is spot on!
I get it, you don’t want to talk. Maybe you are extremely busy or maybe you just feel awkward with face-to-face conversation. I’ll admit that I sometimes choose the self-checkout line at the grocery so I can avoid talking to people!
However, as a professional, that attitude can hurt you. Don’t give people a reason to doubt or discount you. Instead, give them a reason to notice you!
Give them a reason to notice you!
5 Things Every Professional Should Do
Whether you are interviewing for your next job or going in for another day at the office, these 5 tips should be practiced at all times to build other’s respect for you.
1. Make eye contact.
If you’re in eyesight, make eye contact and smile.
Look up from your phone friends! If you don’t, you’ll miss out on opportunities to build depth and breadth in your professional network.
Don’t forget to smile, too! Smiles are contagious. If you smile at someone, it’s really hard for them to not smile back. And did you know that when you smile it releases dopamine and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters)? [There Is Magic In Your Smile] I would make the argument that if you make other people smile, you make them feel good. People want to be around people who make them feel good…be the person others look forward to seeing!
2. Speak first.
If you come within five feet of someone, speak to them first.
Don’t wait for them to speak to you, take the initiative and speak to them first. You’ll exude confidence and show that you care about them. As professionals and leaders, people are always watching what you do. If you don’t speak, they will notice and remember that forever…just like Ben did. Make a good impression by speaking to others first.
3. Perfect your handshake.
Shake hands often and correctly. No matter how old, young, male or female, a good handshake will set the stage for your success. A good handshake is strong and holds on for just long enough. A poor handshake is weak and has bad timing and hand placement.
I’ve taught my six-year old daughter to shake hands when she meets someone new. We were in the doctor’s office last fall where an old high school friend of mine worked. When we crossed paths in the office, we both said hello and my daughter introduced herself. She looked him straight in the eye, told him her name and stuck out her hand for him to shake. He bent down and shook her hand and said, “Just like a Van Hooser…always a professional.” At first, I was embarrassed. I took “always a professional” as a negative. But, the more I thought about it, what else would I want to be known as?
When I think of a professional, I think of someone that is respected, always kind, smart, hardworking, accountable, dependable, and more. I am proud and will be proud for my children to be dubbed “professionals”. What will ‘they’ say about you?
4. Know your audience.
Know who your audience is and act accordingly.
There are some things that are appropriate to say to your friends at work but that are not appropriate to say to the CEO of your company. Professionals are always aware of who they are with and who is watching and they adjust their actions accordingly. By doing this, they will maintain the highest level of respect, integrity, and credibility from others at all times.
5. Initiate small talk.
Small talk doesn’t have to be a big deal — relax! The best way to start a conversation or keep one going is to ask questions.
“What do you do for a living?”
“Where are you originally from?”
“What do you enjoy doing in your free time?”
Once you know a little about them, then you can talk about what they like to do. Professionals don’t let awkward silence linger. Professionals know how to small talk.
For more tips on better communication at work, check out Phil’s blog: Communicate Better: Here’s How
Maximize Your Influence
Professionalism is a choice. A choice in how you carry yourself, how you act, what you say, and who you are. If you want to maximize your professional influence and impact, never forget the importance of these five tips. They will help you on your journey from entry level to executive level!