By Stuart Adams from Top of the Class Professional Tutoring Sydney.
When you’re using the internet to search for something, chances are you’ll scan briefly through the short summarised search results first before deciding which ones to click on to explore in more depth. We do this because it would be too time consuming and laborious to thoroughly analyse every single result in depth.
Likewise, we tend to judge a person by the superficial things we see on the surface before deciding whether they are worth looking deeper into. Consider then that there are two layers of your professionalism that are equally important.
Yes, the outside or ‘superficial’ layer does not really indicate a true reflection of who you are. Those ’surface layer’ attributes however must be adequately impressive through the eyes of the clients so that they then feel comfortable enough to take a deeper look. Consider this the ‘foreplay’ of your professionalism.
So what are the superficial aspects of your professionalism? Some of these things are obvious, however some things that are too obvious are the things that are overlooked to the person preparing to display them. So consider it this way:
When you go to strike a golf ball, if your slice is merely a few millimetres off at the point the club hits the ball, the difference it will make by the time the ball lands might be many metres; enough metres to either win or lose a game. Consider that small, seemingly insignificant things in the present moment can have a big impact down the line where the end result matters.
The superficial aspects of professionalism describes below are some of those ‘little things’ that can make a big difference in the eyes of the client – especially in their first impressions. Their first impressions of you will not only carry over and affect the way they continue to see you; it will affect their decision whether to continue with you as their child’s tutor. These little things are:
Punctuality: Make sure that you are punctual – even a couple of minutes early if possible. Remember that many of our clients lead very busy, very stressful lives. They have very tight schedules and can become easily distressed when something in their schedule stuffs up their timing. Every minute of their time is important to them, so it is important that they feel that you respect their time. The best way in which the client will interpret your respect for their time will be indicated by your punctuality. If you can’t make a lesson or you’re running late, apologise sincerely by way of phone call, not SMS or email.
Touch Base: Because of the busy and stressful schedule many of our clients have, we ask that you ‘touch base’ with them approximately 2 hours before your lesson is due to commence. For this you can send a quick SMS. For example “Hi (client), see you at 5pm for (child’s) lesson. Cheers, (tutor).” You can word the message as you wish of course. The point is that even though this may take as little as 30 seconds for you to do, it can subtly suggest big things about your professionalism and the respect you are showing for the clients time.
Appearance: If you take pride in your appearance and enjoy the feel of being well groomed and well dressed, then this job will be right for you. What is the dress code for a professional tutor? Imagine you were working as a teacher in a private school. That should give you a good idea.
Never Show Up Empty Handed: The clients interpretation of your professionalism will be affected by how prepared you appear. Even if you are mentally prepared, it is important to look prepared. One of the most common complaints that clients make when giving feedback about tutors is when they show up empty handed. Even if the tutor is well prepared, little things such as carrying a laptop bag in one hand, a couple of pens and pencils in the top pocket and some text books are strong unconscious indicators of professional preparation. Think of it like a doctor who walks around checking on patients wearing a stethoscope around their neck, even if they have no intention of using it – it just makes the doctor look more like what the patients expects a doctor to look like.
State of Mind: As discussed in the previous chapter, the state of mind you are carrying with you will be seen just as clearly as your laptop bag, the time you arrive and the way you are dressed when the client opens the door. Appearing confident, enthusiastic and approachable will not just be beneficial for your sake, it will affect the way the client views your professionalism at the unconscious level.
Consulting with the Client: Imagine your GP referred you to a specialist for a condition you are deeply worried about. The specialist told you to show up for surgery, the surgery was performed, and your GP was given a letter explaining that everything was okay. The job may have been completed, but wouldn’t you feel much more comfortable about the specialists professionalism if they took the time to meet you for a consultation and explain everything to you personally before and after the procedure?
Even though you may be there to teach the client’s son or daughter, the parents still like being kept in the loop. Taking a few minutes at the beginning and especially at the end of each lesson to chat about their child’s progress is the perfect opportunity where you can demonstrate the deeper, less superficial aspects of your professionalism. So long as all the superficial aspects of your professionalism have satisfied the client’s expectations, this is where you get to dig a little deeper, down to the stuff that really matters most!