Being taken seriously is important for young professionals. Working with colleagues who are older or more experienced means you often have to prove yourself.
Millennials already have a reputation for being immature, lazy and entitled. We have to fight against those stereotypes every day, so certain bad habits are more than just an annoyance; they are holding us all back.
Here’s what you should stop doing if you truly want to be taken seriously at work:
Watch the way you speak
I once overheard a co-worker say, “I have a widdle question.” Now that phrase is the first thing I think of every time I see her. She is a smart woman and a capable worker, but the baby talk is forever branded in my mind. So, unless you actually work with babies, using infantile language will take away all of your authority.
Baby talk isn’t the only language culprit. Pay attention to the way you speak and figure out whether you’re making any verbal faux pas. For example, using the word “like” incessantly can dilute your message and make you seem less intelligent. (Like, this sentence is, like, not as easy to read because, like, I keep stopping the flow of the words by adding words that are not, like, you know, necessary.) Breaking your bad speaking habits will make it much easier to establish yourself as a professional.
Never play dumb
Dumbing yourself down is a terrible move, both professionally and personally. Sometimes we play dumb in an attempt to make those around us feel smarter, but lowering your intelligence is not the way to boost someone’s self-esteem. You are not doing the other person or yourself any favors by pretending you’re less intelligent than you really are.
A former boss once told me that playing dumb is just part of the corporate world. Don’t buy into that. Companies aren’t looking for empty-headed employees. And, if they are, do you really want to work there? You don’t want to be a know-it-all or the person who always gets the last word, but having ideas and opinions is a good thing.
Don’t treat your cubicle like a dorm room
Your professional image is built on many factors, from your work ethic and interpersonal skills to your wardrobe and cubicle walls. Since you will spend so many hours in your workspace, adding personal touches to your cubicle can improve your mood. However, there is a big difference between a few homey touches and making yourself totally at home.
Tasteful photos of your family are appropriate. Pictures of a shirtless Channing Tatum or Kate Upton in a bikini are not.
And décor is not the only factor that can make you look unprofessional. Throwing your belongings all over the place, letting your stuff overtake a co-worker’s desk or leaving dirty dishes out are behaviors that will make your peers lose respect for you. No one wants to have a meeting at a desk covered in Cheetos crumbs.
Stop using text language
Professional correspondence should not read like a text message. Whether you are contacting a coworker or client, you should use proper English. Abbreviations and other slang can make you look silly and alienate readers who are unfamiliar with the phrase. Your work emails represent not only you, but your company, so don’t pepper them with “lol”s or “smh”s. Besides, the reader doesn’t need to know you are laughing or shaking your head. Who cares?
Eliminating slang and text message vernacular extends to conversations and presentations as well. Your proposal is not going to carry the same weight if you start the pitch with, “Aight, peeps, here’s whassup.” Even if you are saying it ironically, you will seem immature. You don’t have to sound pretentious; just be work appropriate.
Credibility is so important when it comes to moving up the ladder. Don’t let thoughtless habits hold you back. Remember, your workplace shenanigans can give all young professionals a bad reputation. Let’s break the negative stereotypes. Be yourself, but be professional.
Erin Palmer works as a writer and editor with New England College Online Business Administration Degree Programs. She writes about career and education tips for the emerging business professionals of the Millennial generation. Erin can be reached on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.