The Ultimate Guide To Professionalism
Updated 22 May 2023
Developing and maintaining professional behaviours is essential to success in the workplace. Employers expect candidates and hired employees to demonstrate professionalism when interacting with others. Those who display personal professionalism are usually rewarded with better opportunities, such as career advancement and increased compensation.
This guide will help you better understand professionalism to ensure you behave professionally throughout your job search journey, career and beyond.
What is professionalism?
Professionalism is a set of characteristics that displays your ability to be hardworking, dependable and respectful in professional settings. The way you conduct yourself, relate to others and approach tasks all factor into your degree of professionalism. This includes dressing appropriately, respecting others and maintaining a positive attitude.
While professionalism may vary in meaning between jobs and industries, a few essential characteristics are standard across almost all workplace environments.
10 characteristics of professionalism
Here are several characteristics and habits associated with professionalism:
Let’s explore these in detail with suggestions on how to demonstrate these behaviours in the workplace.
Reliability is crucial to workplace success. Departments are more efficient and effective when individuals can rely on one another to do their part. When you and your teammates can trust each other to meet deadlines, produce quality work and respond promptly to requests, it’s easier to meet organisational goals and overcome challenges.
To be reliable, you’ll also need to be flexible and focus on your job duties despite unforeseen obstacles. Consider the difference between an IT professional who becomes anxious about a bug and one who acknowledges the issue and calmly moves forward to fix it. Employers prefer to hire professionals who can maintain a composed demeanour because they are more reliable and, thus, more professional.
You can demonstrate reliability by:
Always following up on requests or questions
Arriving on time or early for work, meetings and events
Producing quality work
Responding to issues in a consistent manner
Following set processes and procedures
Giving your full attention to the task at hand
Another essential aspect of professionalism is humility, or the ability to be humble. Those who exhibit humility are confident without being arrogant and recognise the value others bring to the team. Humility helps people cooperate and work together as a team without one individual considering themselves more important than others.
Employers generally determine someone possesses humility when they respect their peers, acknowledge others for their hard work and avoid boasting about their personal accomplishments. These professionals often emphasise how outcomes affect the entire team rather than just themselves.
You can demonstrate humility by:
Actively looking for ways to develop others alongside yourself
Acknowledging your mistakes
Asking for assistance when necessary
Accepting constructive criticism
Asking for and using advice from more experienced or knowledgeable professionals
Doing what it takes to meet team goals, even if it means accepting tasks below your level of expertise
Encouraging others to share their thoughts, ideas and constructive criticism
Etiquette is an unwritten code of conduct for how to act in workplace situations. Using proper etiquette often means demonstrating good manners, being polite and treating others courteously and respectfully. While business etiquette can vary between employers and industries, it’s always better to be too formal than risk offending someone.
You can demonstrate proper business etiquette by:
Greeting new people with a handshake
Using professional language and full sentences in written communications
Putting your phone away during meetings and when you’re engaged in face-to-face conversations
Greeting individuals by name
Making eye contact when speaking to others
Keeping conversations focused on work and avoiding personal topics
One key aspect of professionalism is maintaining a professional appearance with good hygiene and cleanliness. This applies both to your workspace and yourself. You must wear clean clothing that meets your organisation’s dress code and keep your workstation free of clutter. Neatness shows others you’re organised, conscious of how you present yourself and prepared to handle your job duties.
You can demonstrate neatness by:
Ensuring your clothing is clean and free of wrinkles and holes
Selecting clothing that’s appropriate for your job
Maintaining proper personal hygiene
Keeping your work area tidy and organised
Employees who show consideration for those around them are mindful of the thoughts, feelings and needs of others. They’re kind to colleagues and customers, even in challenging situations. While you may have to deliver bad news or express criticism of a project or its results, doing so with consideration is more constructive and effective.
Those who are considerate demonstrate thoughtfulness and empathy, including everything from asking a colleague about their weekend to helping an overwhelmed co-worker complete a challenging project.
Here are a few ways you can be more considerate at work:
Be polite and kind to your peers, managers and customers
Make an effort to assist others in need
Remaining tolerant and respectful of others and their feelings
Listen to others’ thoughts and opinions carefully before responding
Employers prefer to hire professionals who are devoted to their work and are more likely to offer additional responsibilities and opportunities to those who are engaged in the workplace. Demonstrating a work ethic shows employers you’re loyal to the company and committed to delivering positive outcomes through your work. Proving you’re dependable and willing to put in extra effort to meet your employer’s needs will help you advance your career.
You can display your dedication by:
Taking the initiative and volunteering for new projects
Exhibiting a positive work ethic
Delivering high-quality work
Meeting all deadlines
Maintaining a positive attitude about your job duties
Read more: Tips to Demonstrate Work Ethic
While organisation is similar to neatness, you can keep your desk neat yet still find it difficult to locate things promptly. So it’s important to ensure your space is neat and organised; that way, you will know where everything is, find important items quickly and work more efficiently.
Organisation also extends beyond your physical workspace. For example, organised professionals can better manage their time and obligations. They clearly grasp what they’re supposed to be doing at any given time and set personal deadlines to keep themselves on track. This way, they don’t miss important details and can use their work day best.
You can stay organised in the workplace by:
Maintaining a clear agenda
Creating and updating to-do lists
Always returning items to the right locations
Preparing for tasks by gathering the proper tools and information ahead of time
While employers often hold their workers accountable, the most effective professionals do this for themselves. Demonstrating accountability shows others you take responsibility for your actions and their results.
Accountability requires you to accept your role in mistakes or failures, which can be challenging. However, this also proves your self-awareness and commitment to honesty and integrity.
You can demonstrate accountability by:
Completing all tasks assigned to you promptly
Accepting responsibility for the outcome of any project you’ve participated in
Trying to achieve your goals and do your part to help your team meet business objectives
Integrity is an important part of professionalism because it assures others that you hold yourself to a high standard of morality. Those who have great integrity are honest and ethical at all times. While most businesses set forth a behavioural policy to help guide workers’ behaviour, it’s crucial for you to hold yourself to a high standard of morality.
Employees demonstrate integrity by delivering on their promises and taking responsibility for their actions. They take a proactive approach to challenges in the workplace rather than waiting for issues to be discovered. Acting with integrity also means respecting everyone, including co-workers, supervisors, subordinates and customers.
You can show your integrity in the workplace by:
Keeping your word at all times
Avoiding workplace gossip
Being honest in all your business dealings
Maintaining confidentiality when required
Avoiding discussing sensitive topics not relevant to your job
Adhering to all company policies and procedures, even when no one is watching
Giving credit to others for their accomplishments
While you don’t need to be an expert on everything, it’s important to be competent in the areas for which you are responsible. For example, an air conditioner technician knowledgeable about the latest technologies for energy-efficient cooling will seem more professional to customers and peers than a professional who isn’t up-to-date on the latest industry best practices.
In most cases, it takes ongoing effort to maintain a high level of industry expertise. To continue developing your knowledge and skills, it’s helpful to read industry journals, attend conferences, enrol in relevant courses, practice with new technology and find a mentor. The more expertise you have in your field, the more professional you will appear to others.
You can demonstrate your expertise in the workplace by:
Recommending new products, tools and processes to improve outcomes
Asking your manager for feedback about performance to determine where you can improve
Staying up to date on new industry developments
Pursuing continuing education in your field
Practising essential skills regularly
Volunteer for training opportunities, both as a student and an educator
Understanding professionalism in different workplace situations
Committing to professionalism will help employers understand your ability to be reliable and capable. However, different scenarios require different behaviours. Here are a few tips for using professionalism in various workplace situations.
How to be professional in an interview
An interview is your first chance to make a positive impression on an employer, so you must appear as professional as possible. Without knowing the details of the company’s culture, policies and procedures, you should be formal and exercise your best manners. You can exhibit professionalism in an interview by:
Dressing more formally than you might as an employee
Greeting each person with a handshake
Making eye contact as you speak
Speaking clearly and respectfully without using slang or unnecessary jargon
Sharing your accomplishments with confidence
Avoiding saying anything negative about previous employers or colleagues
How to be professional with customers
If you have direct contact with customers, clients, patients or others your organisation serves, it’s important to be professional at all times. However, it’s also crucial you adapt your behaviour and language to your audience. For example, having a professional demeanour while working with children will be notably different from working with busy stakeholders.
Some aspects of professionalism are universal, such as:
Arriving early for meetings
Responding promptly to questions and requests
Treating others with courtesy and respect
Demonstrating tolerance for other beliefs and opinions
Acting with honesty and integrity
How to be professional with colleagues
Navigating professionalism can become more complex when you’re interacting with your co-workers. While you should always treat them with respect and tolerance, you may also form friendships, and as a result, certain formalities may feel unnatural. However, you should still be wary of acting unprofessional or engaging in misconduct. Avoid jokes or stories that might be perceived as offensive or insensitive.
When you’re in the work environment, you should maintain a clear sense of professionalism that’s different from how you would act in a casual environment. This includes:
Avoiding unprofessional language
Showing respect and compassion for those around you
Developing your professionalism is essential for launching and advancing a successful career. While your industry and workplace environment significantly impact which aspects of professionalism are most important, adopting the characteristics and habits listed above can help ensure you’re prepared no matter where you work.
The model shown is for illustration purposes only and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
Explore more articles
- Cover letter for Aged Care Jobs (With Template and Examples)
- How to Write an Appealing Employment Consultant Cover Letter
- How to Write a Kitchen Staff Resume (Plus Example)
- How to Write an Effective Zoologist Resume (With Template)
- How to Write a Technical Artist Resume (With Example)
- How to Write a Construction Driver Resume (With Template)
- 175 Good Words for a Resume and When to Include Them
- How to Include Language Skills on a Resume (With Examples)
- How to Write a Community Services Cover Letter (With Steps)
- How to Write a Volunteer Cover Letter (Example and Template)
- AI Engineer Skills: Definition and Examples of Key Skills
- Tips for Writing a Manual Testing Resume (With an Example)