Professionalism: 11 Tips That Will Help You Act Like a Professional
Professionalism is defined as an individual’s conduct at work. In spite of the word’s root, this quality is not restricted to those in occupations we describe as “professions,” typically those that require a high level of education and have high earnings.Cashiers, maintenance workers and waitresses can demonstrate a high level of this trait, just like doctors, lawyers orengineers can display a low level of it, and vice versa.
As with good health, the absence of professionalism is usually more obvious than its presence. Who will notice whether you have this quality or not? Your boss and customers and co-workers will, and it can affect your ability to keep your job and advance in your career. So what can you do to make sure to exhibit professionalism or, at least, not show a lack of it? Follow these dos and don’ts:
Make Being on Time a Priority
Showing up late for work or meetings gives the impression that you don’t care about your job so make sure you pay attention to the clock.
Don’t Be a Grump
Leave your bad mood at the door when you come to work. We all have days when we aren’t feeling our best. Remember not to take it out on your boss, your co-workers and especially your customers. If work is what’s causing you to be grumpy, it may be time to think about quitting your job. If that isn’t a good option for you, make the best of the situation until it is.
Your workplace attire may or may not include wearing a suit and tie. Whether you have to dress up for work, or you can wear more casual clothes, your appearance should always be neat and clean. A wrinkled suit looks no better than a ripped pair of jeans. Wear the type of clothing your employer requires or that is the norm for your place of employment. Generally speaking, revealing or tight clothing is a no-no. You should save flip-flops, shorts and tank tops for the weekends.
Watch Your Mouth
Swearing, cursing or cussing—whatever you call it—has no place at work, particularly if those who you might offend are present. If you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother, refrain from saying it at work.
Offer To Help Your Colleagues
A true professional is willing to help his or her co-workers when they are overburdened. He or she isn’t afraid to share knowledge, opinions or simply an extra pair of hands. One person’s success reflects well on everyone in his or her workplace.
While you may be tempted to tell your cubicle neighbors what you heard about Suzy or Sam down in accounting, gossiping makes you look like a middle school student. If you know something that you simply must share, tell someone who has nothing to do with your workplace, like your sister, brother or best friend.
Try to Stay Positive:
Negativity at work brings everyone down. Your boss certainly will not appreciate a drop in morale among his or her employees. Instead, if you think something can be improved, find a way to make that happen.
Don’t Hide From Your Mistakes
As hard as it may be to do, take ownership of your mistakes and do your best to correct them. Make sure you don’t make the same one twice. Never blame others, but set an example so that those who shared in the mistake can step forward and admit it.
Always Fight Fair
You will inevitably have disagreements with your co-workers or even your boss. You may think that something should be done one way while someone else will believe another way is better. Don’t let yourself get angry. No matter how upset you are or how strongly you think you are right, screaming isn’t allowed, nor is name calling or door slamming. And, it should go without saying that physical attacks should always be avoided, no matter what. Calmly explain your opinion and be ready to walk away if the other person can’t be swayed or if he or she begins to lose control.
Dishonesty never makes anyone look good, whether it’s lying on one’s resume or calling in sick. A true professional is always upfront. If you aren’t qualified for the job, either don’t apply for it or send in your application anyway and explain why you’d be perfect for the job in spite of that one skill or attribute you are lacking. As for lying about being sick, if you need a day off, take a personal or vacation day.
Don’t Air Your Dirty Laundry
While confiding in a close friend at work is usually okay, sharing too much information with the entire office is not. Be judicious about whom you talk to, particularly when it comes to discussing problems you are having with your spouse or other family members. If you do decide to share personal information with your co-workers, make sure to do it away from where customers and clients can overhear you.
By Dawn Rosenberg McKay is a career planning professional with two decades of experience. She is the author of several books on this subject.
Dawn has been the Career Planning Guide on About.com since 1997. She ran a job and education information center at a large public library for over five years, working with clients who were going through career transitions, such as career change and job loss. Dawn also assisted new high school and college graduates during the transition from school to starting a career. She has led workshops on resume writing, job interviewing, networking and job searching on the Internet. Dawn is a member of the National Career Development Association (NCDA). She is also the author of The Everything Practice Interview Book and The Everything Get-a-Job Book, both published by Adams Media, as well as several civil service test preparation books that were published by Peterson’s and Pearson Education.