How You Can Spot a Professional

People will sometimes say you can spot a writer. The man with the long hair, somewhat disheveled, but relatively respectable, is a writer (think Bradley Cooper in Limitless). That female with the end of a pen between vibrant red lips is a writer.

Like all stereotypes, these descriptions have some merit. But they are not blanket identifiers. Just like all heroes don’t have muscular builds and blue eyes, or all evildoers don’t have brooding expressions and thin faces. I’m a writer and I tend towards more of a business casual than anything else.

But there is one stereotype that will makes a load of difference in your life. That stereotype is The Professional.

I’m sure you’ve seen the men and women I’m talking about. The man in suit and tie, carrying a briefcase and looking at his watch like he’s late. The woman in fashionable heels and a power suit – feminine and strong. These are people that make you stop and wonder what they do for a living. They are people that you might pay attention to when they speak. When operating in a business setting it is of utmost importance to represent yourself in a way that other people will respect you. Not every job is going to require suit and tie, but every job will require your commitment.

Today I went to speak with someone about my cover letter. This is a service almost every professor of mine has recommended, so I thought getting some extra help with securing a job would be a good idea. From the moment I walked in I stopped listening. The receptionist had her headphones in and didn’t notice when I walked up. The woman reviewing my occupational materials was wearing sweatpants, sweatshirt, and Uggs. These are not people whose advice I’d consider worthwhile.

I did force myself to listen, and the lady whose advice I was receiving was, in fact, helpful. But when I left her office I felt cheated in some way. This was supposed to be a professional meeting, yet it felt like I’d walked into a college campus lounge. I craved that professionalism.

And that is a key I’d suggest to anyone wishing to impress. Dress for the occasion. Even overdressing is often better than underdressing because we, as humans, crave that look of professionalism. We want to feel like our time has not been wasted. We want to speak with someone more knowledgeable than us because we are looking to learn something. Looking the part is half the battle of making someone think you are qualified. And when somebody pauses to think about what skills you possess that he or she may or may not…

Well that’s not such a bad thing, is it?


Deadlines, Borrowed Time, and Excuses

As summer drew to a close, I found my attention being drawn away from my newly begun blog. Between the edits for my manuscript, moving into my off-campus housing, and preparing for the beginning of another college semester, blogging fell by the wayside.

And yet I had promised to become a true blog presence. For heaven’s sake, my first post is titled “Committing to the (Blog) Job!”

I failed to follow up on my promise, and I tried explain away why I had not posted for some time. So my reasoning behind not blogging must be considered an excuse. The lecturer for one of my classes this semester introduced the quote, “Excuses are the bricks that build the house of failure.” As much as I hate to admit it, she’s right. If I had continued to come up with excuses for why I couldn’t post, this blog would have been pointless. I probably would have never added another article.

And yet, here I am. I am once again typing away on my laptop. I will admit, as I write, it is quite late, but that is what it takes. You have to find time to complete your tasks, even if you have to borrow time. As a college student, I have classes, work, a social life, and – until this year – 5:30AM practice with the OSU rowing team six days per week. Where in the world can I find time to fit in a consistent blogging lifestyle?

I borrow time.

Some days I have to stay up a little later, borrowing some time from sleeping. Other days, going out with my friends can wait an extra half hour in order to complete my next post. There are minutes wasted in the day when I’m sitting idly on Facebook or Twitter. If I take those minutes to do something more productive, suddenly I’ve accomplished something I didn’t think I could.

Borrowing time is easier said than done, unfortunately. Yes, there is a large amount of time wasted on the Internet, but how many of us really want to give up our social media? And then of course, there is the ever-faithful couch or bed. Sure, I could write a post, but a nap sounds so much better. Why would I borrow time from these other activities that seem so important?

So my final piece of advice when it comes to avoiding excuses and getting things done is to make deadlines for yourself. Don’t pick a random date, because that’s all it is: random. Can’t you make another excuse to push the date back a little?

Chose a date that has some significance. When I graduated high school, I realized that I had been working on my novel manuscript for five years, and had barely made a dent in it. So I set a deadline at the end of the summer. I knew that if I did not finish my book before I began college, I’d never find the time to properly finish writing. I started with 30 type-written pages in July of the year. I finished with 185 pages before I left for college in August.

We all know how intimidating a good deadline is, and we all know how quickly everything moves out of the way to meet that deadline. So make a good, hard deadline for yourself. You’ll start borrowing time from places you didn’t know existed. And above all else, you’ll be avoiding those excuses.