Becoming personable and professional at the same time

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Photo by Melissa Henrie

First impressions, especially in the professional world, are more than just physical appearance but include your whole demeanor – dress and attitude – though that doesn’t mean you have to become a robot in a monkey suit.

Whether you are going in for an interview or starting a new job, it’s important to be able to present yourself appropriately, and even more so for the vital first impression, which can make quite a difference.

When it comes to professionalism, particularly for those new to it, personality is often unintentionally set aside just when it is most important. Employers are looking to see if you will fit in with the job, so they need to see your character.

The key is to know how to be personable without getting personal. Merriam-Webster defines personable as “friendly or pleasant in manner: easy to get along with” while personal is defined as “of, relating to, or affecting a particular person: private.”

So you want to be friendly without getting into your private life outside of the workplace. That doesn’t mean you have to completely leave out your personal life, just be cautious.

People want to hear the seemingly meaningless things like “How was your weekend?” If someone asks about your personal life, don’t be afraid to answer, just don’t make it the focus. Remember, you’re on their time, not yours.

Be confident in yourself, but avoid arrogance. Smile and make eye contact; don’t be afraid when talking to others, whether they are superiors or not. There is a fine line between being confident and over-confident, which can get you in trouble, so watch out for that.

Another thing to remember is that all those who have more experience than you were once in your shoes. We are all only human, including them. Put yourself in their shoes and think of the golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated.

Be calm. If you get anxious, it’ll show in your voice and your body language. Be comfortable in the environment. If you’re not, convince yourself you are. It’ll make your experience better and it won’t go unnoticed by your colleagues.

First impressions are even more important when you go in to get an application. It’s the first time that the employer will see you and that can often be the judgment on whether you even get the interview.

Dress professionally. Ask if you can speak with the manager on duty. If you need to wait to talk with them, do so.

Once you have the right person, ask if he or she is hiring then ask if you can have an application. It is best to bring a pen and fill it out while you’re there. It shows how serious you are, giving a better impression. If you need to turn it in at a different time, give it to a manager.

Be patient and courteous with the time of the person you speak with. They have lots of responsibilities to attend to so don’t waste time.

When you turn in your application, ask if you can call in two to three days as a follow up. Be respectful of their answer. If they say no, change the date, etc., then be sure to do accordingly.

The same rules apply for following up after an interview. You don’t want to be annoying or seem desperate.