(A quick note before we get started. I wrote the following in response to reader feedback to another column: 10 Bad Habits That Make You Look Really Unprofessional. This post is the counterpoint to that one.)
Here’s a story from about 15 years ago. I was traveling from Seattle to Yakima for work, flying in a tiny commercial turboprop. There were only 10 or 12 passengers, and the cockpit was separated by a curtain rather than a door. We flew through the Cascade mountains in really rough weather, and the captain — a pilot in his early 20s — pulled the curtain aside.
“The tower is saying it’s our choice to continue to Yakima or turn around,” he yelled over the din of the engines, “But I think we’re gonna give it a try.”
What’s wrong with this picture, right? “I think” and “Give it a try” are pretty much the last things you want to hear a commercial airline pilot say, especially in a bad storm. My fellow passengers nearly revolted. The pilot quickly changed course (both literally and figuratively), and we flew back to Seattle.
I’ve told that story a few times over the years, usually for laughs. But remember: It wasn’t the storm or the tiny plane or the air traffic control’s apparent laissez-fair attitude that freaked us passengers out. It’s that the pilot’s attitude made him seem totally unprofessional — and we all lost confidence in him.
Here are a few of the attributes you can demonstrate to make yourself seem more professional. I’m not saying they’re easy, but they are pretty simple. (Keep in mind, nobody demonstrates them all constantly. You’re only human. Just try to be the best human you can.)