Food for thought: How are you perceived professionally?
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Many years ago I worked full-time and attended college at night. Like most of the other exhausted students on campus, I wore the most comfortable clothing I owned to make it through the long evening classes. Well-worn jeans and sweatshirts were my typical uniform.
A communications class required each student to give a series of speeches over the course of the semester. After one of my presentations, the professor offered his critique, and at the end he said to the class, “Does anyone notice that when Karen makes her presentations she dresses for the occasion?”
Indeed, whenever it was my turn to speak, I showed up for class in full business regalia, straight from the hospital where I’d worked all day. That moment confirmed what I had intuited: how I was perceived made a difference. Fair or not, we’re all judged based on how we present ourselves.
Being perceived professionally goes way beyond the wardrobe we choose, however. In many cases, how we are viewed by others is based on more subtle factors, some of which include:
How seriously you take your work
Physicians who command respect from both peers and patients tend to be the ones who don’t take the privilege of practicing medicine for granted. Keeping up on the latest research in your specialty, taking a few extra minutes to look up a piece of data before making a recommendation, and consulting with colleagues on interesting and challenging cases are all signs that you are serious about the art and science associated with your chosen profession.
The language you use
The improper use of basic grammar, the overuse of slang, up-talking, and certainly the use of profanity all have the potential to make others question your professionalism. Beyond junior high school, no one is impressed by a potty mouth.
If you've fallen into any of these bad habits, or if you’re peppering your conversations and presentations with too many “you knows,” work on bringing a new level of awareness to how you speak in an effort to correct these language faux pas.
How you manage relationships
The company you keep and how you manage even your most personal relationships are up for scrutiny when you hold a position of respect within the community. Don’t risk damaging your reputation by speaking negatively about fellow physicians or hospital staff, and most certainly not about patients.
In this day and age of sexual harassment lawsuits, it should go without saying that even the most casual or seemingly innocent flirtations are inappropriate in the workplace. And if you’re married or otherwise committed to another individual, give that relationship the respect it deserves. Word travels fast around the halls of hospitals, and extracurricular activities rev up the rumor mill faster than anything.
How you use social media
Questionable posts and photos on social media sites can do harm to your reputation in an instant. Just like words that have been spoken, once something is out there it can’t be taken back. Practice discretion when using social media and assume that everything you post on the internet is public domain and always will be.
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