You’ve heard the phrase, dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.

Well, I am proposing a new, modified version of this statement. Professionalism is, after all, a lot more about your behavior and how you treat people than it is about how you dress.

I propose that we behave for the job we want, not for the job we have, because making the transition into higher levels of management can be a challenge when it calls for a change in our everyday behavior.

Given the heightened level of self-regulation and discipline that comes with heightened responsibility, many people struggle to change their professional persona when their role changes. People who were once our equals – maybe even our friends – now report to us, and it can be awkward and uncomfortable to change the way we relate with those people.  This is where the new, modified statement comes in. If we start managing our professional persona early, then when the time comes to take on more responsibility – and it will – you will have a much easier time making the transition with members of your team.

Some tips for disciplined self-regulation:

  1. Keep in mind that friendliness is different from friendship. Friendship brings with it a certain comfort level and allows us to cross one-another’s boundaries. If we’re being friends in the workplace, it’s not the friend whose boundaries we need to worry about crossing. It’s all the other people who work around you.
  2. Think about the future. Is this unprofessional behavior I’ve been participating in worth it? What are my priorities in my work environment – meeting the behavior expectations of my job, or making friends?
  3. Model your behavior after a professional you admire. Think of a current or previous supervisor you had who seemed to have a great balance between work and their personal life. What steps did they take to make this happen? What was their professional persona like? What habits did they develop to make this easy for them?