By Victoria Spiotto

May 29, 2020

Today, the Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women hosted speaker Kimberly Martin Begg, a lawyer and longtime friend and advisory board member of the Center. She has served in various leadership capacities across organizations like Young America’s Foundation and the Ortner Family Foundation.  The webinar, entitled, “A Woman’s Survival Guide to Workplace Professionalism,” not only provided professional advice catering to college-aged women, but also personal stories from when she navigated office etiquette. By going virtual, we were able to reach young women from every region of the country.

When it comes to being professional in the workplace, Begg stresses the importance of learning from experience. The conduct, impressions, and relationships that women develop professionally have a large impact on their careers. Begg emphasizes that professionalism is about more than just showing up, and she neatly laid out her “DO’s” and “DONT’s” for women in the workplace.  

DO: Find good people.

Our experiences and professional growth is largely impacted by our workplace environments. Friends, mentors, and coworkers are crucial to our growth as an employee and our expectations for ourselves and our workplaces.  It is essential to learn from others, especially those with more experience, wisdom, and different perspectives than us. As young professionals, we need be open to networking and building meaningful relationships with our mentors, as those very connections will help us in our careers.

DON’T:  Take bad advice from people you love.

How often are you told to, “just be yourself?” Well, Begg disagrees when it comes to a professional office environment. “Being yourself,” especially as a young professional, can often build a wall to constructive criticism you may receive from others in the office. Rather than settling with, “just being yourself,” develop the mindset that as a young professional, you have a lot of learning to do – and be open to changing your habits! This means challenging what you may deem as comfortable, such as a certain clothing style or social demeanor. We don’t need to focus on “being ourselves” – we should grow beyond ourselves. Our “past best self” is not to settle for. It should serve as a starting point that is prone to better change and growth.

DON’T:  Show too much skin.

Professional women on television are often scantily clad, and this can give off the false impression that such attire is respectable in a workplace. The reality, though, is that your attire can often make or break the respect you receive by others in your office. Begg recommends making sure that your skirt or dress is not too short and valuing the advice of older women and mentors. As a general rule, always turn to the eldest women in the workplace to assume the expectations of office attire.

DON’T:  Hookup with a coworker.

As a young professional woman, hold yourself to standards that will only earn the respect from your workplace. Office relationships not only attract negative attention and gossip, but also become the focal point of your workplace experience. Of all you can accomplish professionally, the last you should be remembered for is your not-so-secret office relationship. The right men – who Begg reminds us, do exist – will be impressed by a woman who respects courtship and professionalism. Remember that finding this kind of man is key to a strong marriage and family, which is a key factor to so many other accomplishments in life.

DON’T:  Overshare.

While it is nearly second nature to post, publicize, and share on social media our crazy weekend stories, we sometimes catch ourselves oversharing. As young women, we tend to have more casual relationships with elders and parents – contrary to most of the older generation’s experiences. It is important to be aware of our casual dynamics in the workplace, and remember that personal details and chatter should often be left out of a professional environment. Your words are representative of you and your character, so remain professional!

DON’T: Complain.

Along with this idea of oversharing, one thing not to overshare are our complaints! Complaining to your coworkers and superiors reflects poorly on you, and oftentimes, jeopardizes your future in the workplace. Word gets around, and the last thing you need are your complaints making their way to your boss’ office. Complaining also often comes off as a sign of ungratefulness.  When asked “how are you?”, Begg recommends always responding with “great!” no matter your situation. Positivity, not negativity, influences how you are perceived and can make a big difference in your workplace relationships.

Young women benefit particularly well by learning from the experiences of older women. Kimberly Martin Begg has a heart for mentoring young, professional women and helping them succeed in their careers. Throughout her professional experience, she has built a portfolio of excellent, applicable advice we can use. It’s exciting to step foot into your first workplace, so take the time to prepare yourself for excellence and enjoy your time growing personally and professionally. In the words of Kimberly Martin Begg, “it’s your time to shine!”

About the author: Victoria Spiotto is a rising fifth year at the University of Virginia completing a dual undergrad degree of French and Politics, and a master’s program in Teaching and Elementary Education. She is a 2020 Summer Fellow for the Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women.