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If you work at all, you know how important it is to look good at work.

Put down the hairspray and step away from the mirror…

You are very good-looking and I’m sure you hear that all the time.  But I’m not here to talk about hairstyles, clothes, and makeup.  I’m here to talk about work performance, and some of the things you can do that will make you more successful and liked at work.

The voice of experience…

I got my first job when I was 12 years old.  It took up a lot of my time, but I was thrilled to have money of my own. I would ride my bike 3 miles each way every day to clean out horse stalls.  My summers were spent moving sprinkler pipes and “bucking” hay.  And I walked to school in snow so deep that I had to hold my books over my head to keep them dry.  Uphill both ways.

Ok, so the school part isn’t true. 

But I really have been working either for myself, the military or a corporation of some type for nearly 40 years.  I’ve worked as a consultant, contractor, sole-source provider, and director of entire divisions.  I’ve worked in a wide variety of industries including automotive, finance, banking and technology.  Through all those jobs, l discovered a few simple guidelines that anyone can, and everyone should, follow to look good at work.

What if I work from home?

it doesn’t matter if you work for someone else, or work entirely for yourself. You work. And you need to look good at work whether that’s for your boss, your clients or your dog in your home office.

Whether it’s your first day on the job or the first time in front of a new client, these tips will make sure you always look good at work.

1. Show up

Seems so simple, right?

You’d be surprised how many people can’t get this one done on a consistent basis. In my experience this is a bigger issue for younger workers, it’s amazingly common for people of all ages.  And it isn’t limited just to the workforce.

Showing up is 80 percent of life.
—Woody Allen

A friend of mine went through 7 jobs in about 18 months.  It turns out that having a job got in the way of what he really wanted to do, which was to hang out with his friends until 4 in the morning playing video games.  He would follow the same routine every couple of months.

  1. get a new job
  2. show up for a while
  3. make money
  4. start hanging out late at night
  5. stop going to work every day
  6. get written up
  7. get fired
  8. run out of money (and then his friends quit hanging out with him)
  9. get a new job

Yes, he kept getting new jobs. It’s easy to find work.

But after a while, he found out that it’s tough to make a living on entry-level pay.  He “grew up” and caught a work ethic and is now doing quite well.  He even got noticed by upper management and was promoted to a position where he can set his own schedule and still hang out with his unemployed friends whenever he wants.  Because he figured out how important it is to look good at work.  And also to show up.

Success does not just fall into your lap; you need to put in some effort to get the things you want but it can be done!2. Do your job

Another one that seems so obvious, but that is often overlooked.

Yes, there are people who have been working at their job for a number of years but don’t seem to ever really do anything.  Some people have even retired from jobs where they seldom do anything work-related.  You know who I’m talking about. Some people have the showing up part down, but once they do show up they:

  • hang out in the breakroom all day
  • get their degree using company time and resources
  • watch cat videos all day

These people might think they are pulling the wool over their boss’s/client’s eyes, but everyone knows who they are and what they are up to.  Or aren’t up to as the case may be.

Showing up and doing your job is 90% of keeping your job.  if you can follow these first 2 steps, you can probably keep your job for as long as you want.

But if you want to look good at work and be more successful, you’ll need to make sure you’re taking care of the rest of this list too.

3. Be where you are

Have you ever been talking with someone and they pull out their cell phone?

Makes you feel pretty low on their list of priorities, doesn’t it…

See that’s not so difficult is it?  Let’s recap a bit.

I have the phrase “be where you are” on the bottom of a mirror in my office so that I remember the importance of giving a person or activity your completed attention.

Although multitasking was all the rage a few years ago, studies have shown that people are not actually computers, and we do our best when we focus on one thing at a time.  We are more productive when we can give something our full attention. And we are more appreciated by others when we give them our full attention.

So when you are in a meeting, don’t browse the internet on your laptop; be in that meeting.

When you are talking with someone, don’t’ pull out your phone and start looking for directions to the nearest Starbucks (unless you’re talking about going to the nearest Starbucks of course).

Wherever you are, be there.

4. Engage in small talk

As a life-long introvert, this has been difficult for me to put into practice.

But creating relationships with others in your area, be it an office, support group or client visit, is key to looking good at work.

Here are a few easy ways you can start up a conversation with others and form better relationships at work:

  • stop and talk with the receptionist
  • don’t eat at your desk.  Invite other people to go to lunch with your, or eat in the breakroom.
  • tell someone each day that you appreciate the work they are doing
  • when someone stops by to talk to you, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention

5. Have an opinion

Back in the day, every boss wanted to be surrounded by “yes men”; people who would agree with them no matter what.

Companies today move at a much faster pace, and if they aren’t innovating and creating, they are falling behind.

I’m not saying you have to have the creativity or foresight of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs… but I am saying that you need to be confident enough in yourself and your skills to have your own opinions.

When you’re in a meeting and someone asks what you think, tell them!  Don’t nod your head and say “whatever Kevin says is fine with me”.  And if what Kevin says is fine with you, echo his statement or reword it to support him.

Having and using your own opinions (but not forcing them on everyone else) is seen as a sign of strength and confidence.  And that’s just sexy.

6. Don’t talk about your ex

This isn’t just good dating advice.  (although it really is good dating advice)

Chances are you have the career you do now because of your training and experience.  But that doesn’t mean that you get to constantly compare the one you are with now to the one you left behind.

It’s okay to refer to the way you did things in your past but try to avoid phrases such as:

  • “when I was with CorpCo, we never had that problem”
  • “at CorpCo, we always did it this other way”
    or even
  • “my last client thought blue was a stupid color”.

People do care that you have experience, it’s just harder to relate to someone if they are constantly talking about the way things used to be.

Try making the current situation or person the focus of the conversation rather than having it be all about your ex(job).

  • “I think we could mitigate that problem if we…”
  • “in my experience, doing it this other way has been pretty successful”
    or even
  • “I really think a nice shade of green would work really well here”

That’s a great way to look good at work, without having people think you’d rather be working at your last company.

Follow these 10 simple tips to make yourself look good at work. | www.yourbigscene.com7. Use your time wisely

In every job, be it working for yourself, working for the government, or working for a corporation, you need to learn to balance the time you spend working with the time you spend living.

But Dee, I love what I do and I want to do it all the time!!!!

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.
― Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

You still need to turn your focus away from your work.  You need to give your brain some time to focus on other things, to recharge your mental batteries.

Here are a couple of things that I’ve seen people do that they think makes them look good at work:

  • Never take a vacation
    I’ve seen people with hundreds of hours of vacation time.  They don’t realize how important it is to get away for an extended period of time, not just for their health, but for their creativity (and maybe so others can miss them for a change)
  • Come in early and leave late
    Putting in extra time is occasionally called for, but for the most part, working those extra hours just cuz you want to look good only makes it look like you have no interests outside of work. Some bosses may love that kind of dedication, but most know it leads to burnout. Burnout does not look good at work.

Do yourself, your clients, and/or your boss a favor and get away from the job for a while.  Put down the keyboard and get away for a while!  You’ll be more creative, happier, and more productive when you get back.

8. Don’t be a know it all

You’re so smart.

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance: know where that is.

So you’re the best at cybersecurity (or whatever).  You love to show off your mad hacking skills every chance you get.  People love to hear how smart you are so you jump into the conversation and start telling people how wrong they are, or how right they are and it’s a good thing they are because otherwise, you’d have to tell them how wrong they are.  You always answer before anybody else does… because you have all the answers and are always right.

Don’t be that guy!

Before long that guy stops getting invited to meetings are parties and quinceaneras.  Because nobody wants to be around someone who is right all the time.  Even if they actually are right all the time (which almost never happens).

  • take a pause before you answer or jump into the conversation
  • don’t be so quick to correct
  • let other people answer more than you do
  • try to see things from the other person’s perspective
But you could be smarter…

So now we all know that you know all… keep learning anyway.

No matter how much you think you know, there is always someone who knows something you don’t.  Go find out what that is!

Pick something that you’re really interested in and learn all you can about it.  It will not only make you a smarter, more well-rounded person but continually looking for ways to make yourself smarter can only make you look good at work.

9. Pick your battles

Work can be a very frustrating place sometimes.  Bosses, clients, and even puppies can want the strangest things sometimes.  And there will always be stubborn people who are sure that their way is the only way to do something (see number 8).

But you can’t fix the world, and you aren’t going to win every battle no matter how hard you try.

Ask yourself “is this the hill I want to die on?”

But you can win a few.

So fight for what is right, but always ask yourself if it’s significant enough to use your ammunition, energy, and good-will on.

10. Make your boss look good

We wrap this all up with something that follows closely to showing up and doing your job.  The best thing that you can do to make yourself look good at work is to make your boss look good.

I’m not suggesting that you suck up or wash their car or pick up the dry-cleaning (get mine while you’re there?).  But I’m saying that you need to find out what is important to your boss, what they need to have done to look good to their boss and make that one of your priorities.

Any time you can take some work off your boss’s plate or make them look good is only going to make you extremely important in your boss’s eyes.

Hey hey good looking!

Let’s recap:

  • Show up and do your job and you’ll be head and shoulders above a whole bunch of the workforce.
  • Wherever you are and whatever you’re supposed to be doing, be there and do that.  FOCUS!
  • get to know the people you work with/for
  • know enough to have an opinion
  • don’t refer to your last job all the time
  • make time for work and play
  • know when to say nothing and let it go
  • know when to speak up and stand your ground
  • make your boss look good.

So now it’s your turn; tell me what you do to look good at work!

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Often referred to as “that long-haired computer guy”, Dee Hathaway is a government technology leader with a passion for helping people do things better and a goal of always having the newest cell phone available. His first book Here's What Let's Do: Stop Being Average and Start Being Awesome was an Amazon #1 bestseller.
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