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8 Crucial Professional Habits You’re Probably Not Practicing

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Whether you’re a current nonprofit professional or on the hunt for the job of your dreams, it's always a good idea to do a bit of an audit of your professional habits and practices.

While there are certain qualities—courtesy, timeliness, and a strong work ethic—that we already use as the basis for our everyday professional behavior, there are others that are equally important, but don’t get quite as much attention.

Here are eight habits and behaviors that are essential for both your workplace happiness and your professional growth.

1. Know your worth

Every individual comes with a unique set of experiences, so be confident about your ability to contribute something fresh and meaningful to the organization or team. When networking or going to interviews, tell your potential employer exactly how their organization will benefit from hiring you.

Building self-worth, at its core, is a matter of practicing how you think about yourself. Develop your sense of confidence in the workplace by blocking any negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.

For example, if you think to yourself, “I will never manage this project successfully,” try changing that thought to something like, “I will manage this project successfully by staying organized and focused.” And then, to firm up your resolution, put pen to paper and create a blueprint for how you’ll achieve what you set out to do. We spend so much time in our own heads that we often underestimate the power of writing in order to help us reach our goals.

Documenting successes as well as positive feedback can also help you build confidence. Try keeping a journal of your weekly accomplishments or asking friends and colleagues what they think your biggest strengths are, and take notes. Changing the way you present yourself to others takes time, but practice and improved self-confidence will help it feel more natural and intuitive.

2. Be direct

It’s a mistake to assume that being direct is somehow impolite. Asking for a raise, promotion, or more responsibility requires a willingness to clearly communicate with your supervisor and to be your own champion. The same can be said for when you’re in an interview or pitching a new idea to a manager or potential employer.

Never forego politeness, but always be clear in your opinions and firm when necessary. Being direct is far more professional than being wishy-washy and, when combined with courtesy, tact, and grace, directness can earn you the respect of colleagues and management alike.

3. Ask for help

Since we often fear coming across as ignorant, inexperienced, or incompetent, asking for help can be a challenge. But making the request in the right way is actually one of the strongest things we can do. Reaching out to others shows that we care deeply about professional improvement and learning how to do the job correctly.

First, try to research and address an issue on your own. Even if you don’t come across a workable solution, it will help you to be more knowledgeable on the issue you’re up against and help you to ask informed questions when you do reach out to others.

4. Embrace transparency

Sometimes, professionals may be hesitant to embrace transparency for fear that it will lessen their degree of control over their work. But as long as you’re doing your job properly, you have nothing to conceal. In group environments where transparent communication is the norm, it’s a whole lot easier to work with colleagues and provide useful updates to management.

Rather than keeping information to yourself, track your progress someplace that’s accessible to other members of your organization, such as an online task management board, shared Google spreadsheet, or communal whiteboard. Ask colleagues friendly, work-related questions, listen to their responses, and talk with them about your own challenges and ideas. This will help everyone feel more comfortable with open communication.

5. Skip the constant apologies

There are, of course, times when you make a mistake for which you need to apologize. But most of the time, you’ll benefit from a simple “thank you” instead. For example, if you’re running late to a meeting, tell your colleagues “Thank you for waiting” rather than “Sorry I’m late.” This makes you appear more professional and authoritative, while still coming across as respectful and mindful of your colleagues’ time.

6. Establish an online presence

Don’t keep your professional presence confined to your job! Creating a website with a portfolio, an updated LinkedIn profile, and professionally appropriate social media accounts are all techniques for expanding your digital presence. Though these strategies are particularly important for creatives like writers and artists, professionals in any field can market themselves online by posting insights and tips on community platforms like Medium or personal portfolio sites using tools like Squarespace or WordPress.

7. Know when to say “no”

One of the hardest things to do in the workplace is saying “no” to an idea or assignment—particularly when the directive comes from a supervisor. But learning how to say “no” to a colleague or boss is an important skill. If you think the assignment is low on the priority list and will only distract you from a more important task, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Work is full of tradeoffs, and a “yes” to a low priority task will inevitably mean a “no” to something more essential.

8. Maintain your authenticity

While it’s important to impress with professionalism, you don’t want that to come at the expense of your personality and character. You want to show not only that you have the skills a workplace needs, but also that you can connect with other employees and bring with you a vibrant, upbeat personality that fits into the workplace culture.

Good professional habits go beyond time and task management. Try being open and collaborative without compromising firm and direct communication. You should also try to communicate professionally while letting your personality shine through. Regardless of your passion or industry, implementing these workplace habits will help you have a more positive experience throughout your social-impact career.


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About the Author | Shachar Shamir is a business blogger and startup mentor who's passionate about helping people around the world flourish in their careers. A self-proclaimed business geek, he loves to help small teams grow and thrive.

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