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What exactly is professionalism, and do you have it? The word can be used to describe a lot of different qualities, but it’s always a good thing.

Most people think of a professional as an individual who has some level of expertise at what they get paid to do. However, you’ve probably met people who were great at completing tasks, but you wouldn’t want to have to work alongside them. Or you might have had a co-worker who had tons of knowledge and education, but they never could seem to get it together, and it affected everyone. Both types of workers don’t show professionalism.

In contrast, there are individuals who are obviously going places. They’re calm, intelligent and capable.  They’re a privilege to know, and employers will do much to keep them on staff. They’ve cultivated conduct and characteristics that demonstrate professionalism.

Professionalism Defined

Webster is pretty brief, stating professionalism is, “The conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.” Professionalism is the sum total of their work ethic, integrity, dedication to their job and daily pursuit of excellence.

Someone who demonstrates professionalism doesn’t flare up when their toes get stepped on. He or she is generally on time and prepared. The individual consistently shows up dressed appropriately for their role and with the tools they need for the job.

Professionalism means doing your work to the best of your ability even when no one is looking. It involves developing skills to manage setbacks and taking pride in a job well done.

If that sounds like a tall order, it is, but professionalism is demonstrated one act at a time. Here are a few simple ways to show professionalism during any business day.

Professionalism in Communication

How you’re perceived at work has much to do with your communication skills. Show professionalism in face-to-face conversations, in writing and when you communicate through video.

In Verbal Conversations

  • Be appreciative – Notice small things your co-workers do and be specific in your thanks.
  • Be concise – Show you respect others’ time by not making work conversations about yourself. Get to the point and deliver your message as succinctly as possible.
  • Watch your body language – Don’t cross your arms across your chest, tap your fingers to show impatience or neglect to make eye contact.
  • Give credit, take responsibility – If you make a mistake, own it. If someone else contributed to the win, spotlight their involvement.

Written Communication

For business email use short, concise subject lines. Proofread everything, especially how you spell the name of the recipient. Start with a proper salutation, use a respectful tone and trim any unnecessary words. Respond to emails you receive promptly and follow up if you don’t hear back.

For workplace chat and instant messaging, many of the same principles apply. Be brief and to the point, but also make sure you’re using complete, grammatically correct sentences. Don’t get in a disagreement over messaging. If things seem to be headed that way switch to a phone call or in-person conversation.

Video Communication

Demonstrate professionalism in your video conference sessions by doing the following:

  • Show up on time
  • Check lighting, video feed and sound ahead of time
  • Make sure your background is simple and uncluttered
  • Give the video call your undivided attention
  • Dress in the same type of attire you’d wear in the workplace
  • Look at the camera lense regularly to create the feeling of eye contact
  • Mute yourself if you’re not talking

Professional Attire

How you look matters, and you really don’t get a second chance to make up for a bad impression. Sure, we shouldn’t judge by appearances, but most people will make decisions about your abilities and character because of how you look.

If you don’t take care with your appearance, they’ll assume you also take a haphazard approach to your job responsibilities. If you don’t dress like someone who has your role, it’s harder for people to imagine you being competent.

Show professionalism in your attire by understanding the dress expectations for your workplace and adhering to them. Even if the dress code is casual/everyday, your co-workers should never have reason to describe you as sloppy. No matter what your role, showing professionalism means good personal hygiene, neat hair, appropriate jewelry and attire that allows you to do your job.

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