How To Be Taken More Seriously as a Young Professional
5 Timeless Tips I’ve Seen Work
Let’s face it. There is a clear bias against young professionals entering the workforce. We are entitled, high-ego, low-preparedness, all wrapped up in clothes we can’t afford. It can be a daunting task to push past these misconceptions for those that are trying to establish themselves as professionals in their field, but it’s not impossible.
The fight to be seen as a professional is one that I still fight every day. Every day I go to work and school, I am constantly mindful of how I present myself. With each article I write, I stop to consider how it will influence my professional image.
There are already a lot of factors working against you if you’re trying to break into a new field — your age doesn’t need to be one of them.
While you don’t have control over how people judge your abilities, there are some things that you can control that will put you in a more favorable position.
These five methods are things that I have been working on implementing into my professional life, and it has completely changed my perspective on what it takes to be taken seriously. By no means am I a poster child for any of these, but I have learned enough along the way that I can’t wait to share!
1. Start by Taking Yourself Seriously
I put this one first because it is the biggest challenge for me. I have the hardest time taking myself seriously. Recently, I wrote an article about improving your self-image so that I won’t go into too much detail with my struggles, but the principle still stands. If you don’t start taking yourself seriously, no one else will.
I first discovered this shortly after graduating from high school. I moved from Texas to California to proselyte for my church. It only took a day of knocking doors to realize that no one was going to listen to me if I didn’t change my self-image. I couldn’t play the role of the high school kid that I got used to playing. If I wanted to be taken seriously, I would have to take myself more seriously.
The same thing applies to general professionalism. You are a unique individual with a life that no one else has lived. There are experiences from your life that may seem dull to you but can provide insight and perspective to others that no one else’s experience can.
You deserve to be taken seriously. The fact that you are reading this shows that you are more committed than 99% of other young start-ups that want to be seen as a professional.
To be taken seriously means that you believe that you can accomplish whatever it is you set out to accomplish. Whatever your profession is, you can gain respect by having respect for yourself first.
2. Show Respect to Gain Respect
Yes, the golden rule still applies in your professional life. If you want to be treated with respect, you need to treat others with that very same respect.
When gathering my thoughts for this article, I stumbled across an article on inc.com that listed 17 bad habits that make Millennials look unprofessional. Many points on this list (acting entitled, being overly certain, only being out for themselves, etc.) could be summed up to having a general lack of respect for others.
Showing respect for those that you work with will discredit many of the stereotypes that are working against you.
Part of this respect is being willing to work in a team, building up your coworkers, and giving constructive feedback as needed. If you do all of these things from a place of respect for the other person, you will find that the other person will be more willing to do the same for you. Essentially, you will both grow in your professional development.
Don’t be over-the-top when showing respect — no one likes a butt-kisser. Be sincere, and that sincere respect will be returned to you in time and by the work that you do.
3. Be Mindful of How You Present Yourself
If you have mastered the first two principles we’ve discussed so far, you will be free to focus more on presentation. I’m not just talking about the way you dress (though that does have an impact), I mean the way you walk, speak, and interact with others.
I have found that I am most mindful of how I’m presenting myself when I am confident in my abilities. If I’m in a position where I have to do something I’m not good at (public speaking, for example), I freeze up and completely forget about presentation.
Thankfully, even if you aren’t completely comfortable in some of your responsibilities, mindfulness can begin before you even leave your house. Be mindful of your appearance. Eat something that will make you feel good. Exercise. Set a strong foundation before you enter your professional environment, and you will find it easier to continue being mindful.
If you’re like me, you might need some extra help to slow your brain down long enough to assess your presentation. I’ve found that doing five to ten minutes of a mindfulness exercise is helpful.
My favorite one I’ve found is one that I can do on my walk to work. As I walk, I list five things that I can see, five I hear, five I smell, taste, and feel. This simple exercise helps me pause my helpless planning brain and take stock in my current situations.
4. Develop a Stellar Work Ethic
Regardless of what you do, everyone starts at the bottom of the food chain. To show your capabilities to climb that ladder, you need to have an incredible work ethic.
Nothing speaks louder than consistent hard work.
I learned this at a fairly young age. My grandma lived close to us, and I would go over to her house every week to mow her lawn. As it became a consistent routine, a couple of her neighbors asked if I could mow theirs too. Pretty soon, I was the founder of my first small business, all because I consistently showed up.
Showing up every day ready to work your butt off is going to get you further than any eloquent speech, soft skill, or personal connections. Prove that you’re willing to work harder than anyone else, and you’ll likely go farther than anyone else.
This is partly because the hard work you put in will accelerate your learning. You might make mistakes along the way, but you will learn quickly and move past them.
If you don’t know how to improve your work ethic, start by showing up consistently. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson once said, “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” I believe that this is true for whatever you do. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to be willing to work the hardest.
5. Be Open to Criticism
Many people I know like the idea of criticism until it is given to them. Our generation likes to believe that we have all the answers, and when someone questions our judgement, we mark them off as incompetent. (If you don’t believe me, take a look at politics)
A professional is not someone that is always right. They are someone that can admit when they are wrong.
If you want to be taken more seriously in the workplace, you need to be able to own up to your mistakes and learn from them. Nobody expects you to be perfect at your job, and you are definitely not going to please everybody with your work.
The good news is, there are generally quite a few people on your side. It’s okay to ask for help.
If you feel you don’t receive a lot of feedback in your work, all you have to do is ask. Talk to your boss and coworkers about what you can do to improve. After you receive a critique, don’t just discredit and move on. Implement it. By doing so, you are not only improving in your job, but you are showing other people how important that critique was to you.
Seriously, You Got This
When all is said and done, sometimes you need to step back, take a deep breath, and recognize that you’re not going to get where you want immediately.
Professional development is a journey. There are some things you can do that will bring immediate results, but lasting development takes time.
In summary, these five subjects are things that I have seen greatly affect my own professional life. They are:
- Take Yourself Seriously
- Show Respect to Gain Respect
- Be Mindful of How You Present Yourself
- Develop a Stellar Work Ethic
- Be Open to Criticism
This is definitely not the ultimate list to end all lists — I would love to hear from you! What do you do to be taken more seriously in a professional environment?
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