Since we are not in our careers yet, should we take the time to present ourselves professionally?
by Rebekah Baughman, Emporia State University
In college we hear everyone talking about the importance of first impressions. They hold lectures and workshops about how to act and dress like a professional. Is any of that really important?
The truth is that while we are in college, that is our career. It’s a vital step to get the jobs that we desire to have one day. Therefore the way that we present ourselves now will have an impact on the person that we develop into as we go through this precursor of our career.
Here are 5 tips on acting like a professional while in college:
Tip #1 – Dress like you are serious about what you are doing
When I first went to college I vowed to myself that I would never wear pajamas to class – unless there was some sort of pajama day of course. I didn’t do that because I was against the concept, but simply because I saw college as the next step in my professional life and I wanted everyone to know that I was 100% dedicated to it and serious about it.
With the exception of my dear pair of leggings, I have kept that vow to myself. I personally believe that impressions can have a big impact. One of the most visible ways that you can act like a professional in school is by looking like one.
I am not suggesting that you wear a suit and tie everyday, but maybe those TMNT pajama pants are not the way to go. If you were teaching a class, how would you want your students to show up? When you picture someone in the middle of training for a job or next step of education, how do you envision them appearing?
If you are like me you might be picturing someone wearing clean clothes and having brushed their teeth that morning. Now don’t get me wrong, we all have days when we come to class literally having just rolled out of bed, but making a conscious effort to do your best to present yourself in a professional way is an important first step in going from looking professional to also acting professional.
Tip #2 – Communicate with your professors regularly
When you get into college, you usually are not as connected to your professors as you might have been in your high school classes. They teach the class and then you leave only to rejoin during the next class period.
Lectures are usually long and it is your responsibility to initiate conversation with the professors for questions and concerns that you may have about the class. For this reason, professors have office hours. These are the hours that you should be taking advantage of.
It may sometimes be intimidating, but going in during office hours with questions or just to clarify some of the material that was talked about in class will give you the opportunity to actually meet your professor formally as well as show them that you are serious about doing well in their courses. Building relationships with your professors will also come in handy when you may need recommendation letters or internship experiences.
Tip #3 – Take notes in a way that is most productive for your learning style
There are many different ways to take notes in class. You can do it the old fashioned style with pen and paper, you can use a sketch notes method, type notes on your laptop, and you can even record the lectures (with professor approval).
If you have not discovered the best note taking method for you, try out different methods and see which allow you to retain the most information. Then use this method in class so that you are able to reference back to topics discussed during lecture. Your notes will not only be a means to keep you focused in class but will also show your professor that you are dedicated to learning the information and want to be able to refer back to it outside of class.
Tip #4 – Stay engaged in the conversion
During lectures, it can be really hard to stay engaged in what the professor is talking about. By being proactive and separating yourself from distractions, you will learn more and also appear more professional to your peers and your professors since you are dedicating yourself to staying attentive.
Taking notes is an obvious way to help you focus on the subject, but asking questions is a way in which you can also verbally engage in the conversation. Some professors want you to ask questions during the lecture and others would rather you wait until they are finished, but students are able to pick up on that fairly quickly during the first few classes.
Whatever your professors prefer, make sure that you right questions in your notes, ask those questions in class, and then don’t forget to record the answer. Asking questions is a great way to not only learn more about the information in class, but also will alert your professor to the fact that you are paying attention and also following what he is saying about the topic.
Bonus Tip – Use LifeSpace to prepare for life after college
Whether you are trying to stay organized in school, ready to start planning for your first job, or simply want to increase your organizational skills in preparation for life after college, the LifeSpace Organizational App will help you be more professional and prepare for life after college.
You can do this!
Our ability to stand out in the collegiate crowd as someone who is taking these years just as seriously as the job that we hope to get one day, will be noticed. The truth is that people are watching. You professors, graduate schools, and recruiters for companies. The classes and events we attend as well as the networking opportunities we participate include people who are looking at us and evaluating our professionalism. By acting professional now, we are preparing ourselves to be professionals in the future.