Insights- keeping it professional

Keeping It Professional: The Basics

Here at Consilio, we work to improve the lives of others.

We coach and guide in an effort to bring out the very best in people so that they can create success on purpose. That starts by making sure the best possible you shows up when it counts.

Unfortunately, people sometimes damage an opportunity or even a career by making easily avoidable mistakes. Often these simple missteps seem harmless enough, but should usually be avoided in business situations. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating an influential person or decision-maker. You can lose amazing opportunities if you aren’t careful, so I’m here to set you straight. Don’t irk people by making any of these potentially deal-killing, but completely controllable mistakes.

Odor: Neutralize It!

Have you ever had a wall of perfume hit you in the face so hard that it made you nauseous? I have. I can’t focus. My head starts to hurt. It’s an unnecessary distraction that I resent. It annoys some people. Bad.

Do those with allergies a favor: consider passing on perfume or cologne of any kind. I once overheard a very famous attorney and cable news show host loudly and angrily complain about a woman who wore perfume to work.

Why do I have to smell that b!+(#’s perfume every day? I have the right to clean air in my work environment!” she yelled from a green room makeup chair.

My eyes got wide and I stopped in my tracks. Was she talking about me? Possibly. She seemed to dislike me for no reason I could pinpoint and I did wear perfume in the office. Was it possible I didn’t smell as good as I thought I did? Yes, entirely possible. I never wore perfume to work again. Shoot. I didn’t want to get sued!

It truly boggles my mind that I ever made this mistake. First of all, I’ve developed my own aversion to the smell of most perfumes and colognes. But, more importantly, I wonder if I would have had different opportunities if this one very powerful woman had taken a liking to me. I now realize that was not possible because I committed one of her pet peeves.

In the movie “Anchorman,” Brian Fantana says of his cologne, “60 percent of the time it works every time.”

I’m no statistician, but those odds don’t look that great to me. Eliminate the chance of offending someone 100 percent of the time by not wearing perfume or cologne in business situations.

Spit Out the Gum

I immediately question a person’s judgment when I see them chomping away on gum in the presence of their superiors or clients/customers. Sure, it can be overlooked. I, personally, don’t form a lasting opinion on someone based on whether or not they chew gum, but some people do. A mentor of mine once asked me never to chew gum when we worked together. Couldn’t. Stand. It. (By the way, it’s Oprah’s pet peeve too!)

At least in that situation I was given the opportunity to fix the problem and move on with a clean slate. That’s not usually how it goes down. In a worst case scenario, you don’t get the job/deal/referral/business and you are never told why. It happens. Don’t let it happen to you.

You don’t need gum, anyway. My dentist says it’s bad for your teeth. May I interest you in some mints instead? I was once complimented by a powerful political correspondent/analyst for the mints I kept out for the office. He told me one day, “You really do everyone here a service.”

Mints can also be conversation starters. I recently wowed the team at a huge logistics company by bringing mints shaped like little trucks. It’s the little things that can make a BIG difference. And chomping on gum in business situations is one seemingly little thing you may want to chew over before making yourself appear unprofessional.

Step Away from the Cell Phone

This one almost goes without saying. Almost. Unfortunately, I still have to say it: Be aware of your cell phone use – especially if you are a new hire or recent college graduate.

Stats show inappropriate cell phone use continues to be a major annoyance to employers nationwide. Almost 75 percent of hiring managers report new college graduate employees text message at inappropriate times, and almost 60 percent report excessive cell phone usage for personal calls.

Fine, you’re in a meeting and you need to be on top of what’s moving and shaking in your virtual world. I get that. I’ve worked places where it’s acceptable to have your nose in your phone during meetings as long as you still contribute and add value. That may be your company’s culture, but it may not be. Besides, is it really possible to be completely present when you’re focused on your phone? Probably not. Pay attention if you’re supposed to be paying attention. If you notice an urgent email from a client – maybe deal with it. But, if your friend texts to ask if you want to go to happy hour that night – it can wait until you’re away from those you should be trying to impress with your attentiveness.

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