Employees Can Become More Professional at Work
Employees can distinguish themselves by bringing more professionalism to the workplace
By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 10, 2017
We’ve all heard that it’s important to be professional if you want to succeed at work and have a successful career, but what does that mean? Many employees I’ve worked with have heard about the importance of professionalism, but they’ve never really had any formal education in this area.
Maybe employees are supposed to pick it up on your own through observation, but that’s not always easy to do. Many learn on the job, but this type of experience risks a lot of mistakes along the way.
Alison Green writes the popular “Ask a Manager” blog and is the co-author of “Managing to Change the World: The Non-profit Managers Guide to Getting Results. I am particularly impressed with the following nine elements of professionalism (among others) she encourages employees to adopt early in their careers.
- Pay attention to the cultural norms in your organization, and follow them. If you watch how others in your office operate, you’ll learn all sorts of important things about “how we do things here.”
- Be pleasant and polite to people, even if you don’t like them. You will have to work with people whom you just don’t care for, and even with people who aren’t very nice. Don’t let them get under your skin. Instead, remain easy to work with and congenial.
- Take responsibility. If you make a mistake or something doesn’t go well, don’t make excuses, or blame others. Accept responsibility for your part in what went wrong and correct your mistakes ASAP.
- Realize that getting feedback about your work – even critical feedback – is part of the job; it’s not personal. If you care about doing your job well and preparing for advancement, you want to know where you need to do better.
- Your writing needs to be clear and appear professional. That means no slang, text speak, and using correct punctuation and capitalization. Remember this is workplace communications, not texting friends about hanging out next Saturday night.
- Be flexible. If staying an hour late will ensure the presentation for the tomorrow’s meeting gets done on time, you should do it unless that’s physically impossible. This also applies to changes in work plans, goals or other things that might evolve as projects develop.
- Be reliable in attendance. Unless you have pre-scheduled vacation time or you’re truly ill, you should arrive early and be ready to start on time each day you are scheduled to work.
- Demonstrate a willingness to help that goes beyond your job description. The most effective way you can earn a great professional reputation at work is by doing more than the bare minimum required. That means looking for ways to do your job better, helping out colleagues when you can, and not avoiding new projects.
- Don’t treat your manager as an adversary. Treat your manager as a team leader. Sure, your manager has authority over you, yes, but one who’s working toward the same goals as you are and wants you to succeed.
As greater professionalism becomes part of your personal brand, you’ll find those who make this effort distinguish themselves at work and further position themselves for advancement. Moreover, I’m confident that the time and effort they invest in mastering the above key elements will prove worthwhile as their career progresses.