Professionalism is defined as an individual’s conduct at work. In spite of the word’s root, this quality is not restricted to occupations we describe as ‘professions’, typically those that require a lot of education and have high earnings.
Cashiers, maintenance workers, and waitresses, who don’t usually make a lot of money and don’t need college degrees, can demonstrate a high level of this trait, just like doctors, lawyers or engineers can display a low level of it, and vice versa. As with good health, the absence of professionalism is usually more noticeable than its presence. Who will detect whether you have this quality or not? Your boss and customers and coworkers will, and it can affect your ability to keep your job and advance in your career. So what can you do to make sure you 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. Not only does this go for start times, but this tip also applies to returning from your lunch break.
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 coworkers 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, mother, 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 share responsibility for 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.
Dishonesty never makes anyone look good, whether it’s lying on one’s resume or calling in sick when you aren’t. 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 despite this and explain why you’d be perfect for the job regardless of the 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.