If you want to be successful in the workforce, professionalism is a vital characteristic to develop. It’s not only important once you have a job, but also when applying for jobs and interviewing. Your interviewers will be able to judge your level of professionalism pretty quickly based on the way you carry yourself and communicate.
So what is professionalism and how do you portray it every day? This guide will offer you the basics and allow you to build upon the professionalism you already possess.
Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as “the skill, good judgment and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.” In essence, it is a specific way of thinking and acting in your everyday life, especially while at work.
So let's break down those three qualities from the definition—skill, good judgment and polite behavior.
If you attended a career school, then you've worked hard in your classes to learn the skills you need for your chosen career. Brush up on key areas before interviews and make sure your résumé is up-to-date and highlights your experience. Discussing your new skills and how you'll apply them will help demonstrate your professionalism.
But remember, your skills will only take you so far unless you also display other aspects of professionalism.
Good judgment is important to employers because it shows that you will react in an appropriate way when handling even the most unexpected situations at work. Employers want to see effective decision-making and the ability to make the right choices under pressure. Part of good judgment is also not overreacting or reacting emotionally in highly tense situations.
Your social media pages (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) should reflect good judgment. That means not posting about inappropriate or risqué topics, and keeping your public photos professional and without controversy.
You can also show good judgment in the way you dress, speak and act in both your public and private life.
Polite behavior means treating other people respectfully, fairly and courteously. Use good manners and appropriate speech–no profanity or slang. Be polite to everyone, no matter their level or rank, or whether you like them or not. Being able to maintain politeness and control even when dealing with distraught patients is a valuable skill.
When you combine these three elements of professionalism–-skill, good judgment and polite behavior–-you create an expectation that you are trained to do your job well. That's a very good thing when it comes to potential employers. But convincing people of your professionalism isn't enough—you also need to develop a solid code of ethics that support your professional behavior. Stay tuned for The Professionalism Guide Part II: Ethics.