What are some simple tips that can help people look more professional? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Fake it 'til you make it. Even if you have NO idea what you're doing. Life Protip: Almost nobody knows what they're doing. Stand out in a good way by acting like you know what you're doing. Since nobody else knows what they're doing, people will believe you, be relieved that you've got it under control (as far as they know), and be happy with you for being so confident and capable.
Don't gossip, flirt, or bad-mouth. Just don't. Just don't. Particularly in your first "real job."
Resist complaining. I'm not going to say "don't complain," because that'd be terribly hypocritical of me. But really, nobody likes to listen to people complain, in any context. The less you do it, the more professional you'll look -- and, the more competent and confident you'll look, per the first point. People who know what they're doing don't complain about it.
Win by outperforming, not by competing, backstabbing, or sucking up. To clarify the difference between outperforming and competing: Your goal isn't to be better than someone else. That's competing. Your goal is to be the best you can possibly be. If you're truly performing at your best, and you have any degree of aptitude for your job at all, you will automatically be one of the best performers at your job. I do recognize that a lot of jobs have built-in BS like metrics andand such -- it's not possible to have an aptitude for those unless you're a computer, so don't worry about those. (And, if possible, try to find a job that treats you a little less like a computer, although I fully realize how difficult this is in 2016.)
Be polite. Even when you don't feel like it. (Especially when you don't feel like it.) Good manners and basic courtesies are a surprisingly rare commodity. They'll also help protect you from having, which really only works out for the best in the movies.
Dress like you give a damn. Full disclosure: I screwed this one up pretty badly early in my career. If you're a low-maintenance kind of person, then figure out clothes and grooming that still look good with low maintenance. (If your line of work requires formal business attire, you're gonna have to adjust your bar for "low.") People really do judge based on appearances -- it's not fair, and I'm not happy about it either, but it's true. You can decide to crusade against that, but the crusade comes with the cost of people taking you less seriously. Only you can decide which side's worth it.
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