What Exactly is Professionalism?

“Professional: A person willing to play the game with every intention to win and willing to accept defeat.” – Chinmai Swamy

Professionalism is the conduct, behaviour, and attitude of someone in a work or business environment. It is defined by a certain set of rules that you must abide by to be considered professional.

Having high professionalism in your workplace means demonstrating personal accountability, time management skills, and acting responsibly with the larger community’s interest in mind. Other aspects of demonstrating high professionalism include interacting with others appropriately and respectfully, communicating clearly and directly, and having good interpersonal skills.

Professionalism leads to workplace success, a strong professional reputation, and a high level of work ethic and excellence. Everyone has a role to fill in any organization, and professional behaviour helps separate business from the personal.

Another counterpart of Professionalism, intimately linked with this notion, is leadership. The success of one very much affects the success of the other. Professionalism entails acting in a manner that’s in the best interest of the project: being efficient, keeping a focus on business, and separating your personal life from your working life. Acting as a leader means taking and accepting charge and control of the project, as well as making sure that your team members are fulfilling the tasks they’ve been given. It is very difficult to be an efficient leader if you are lacking in professionalism, and vice versa.

How to Demonstrate Professionalism in Your Internship

We’ve covered that professionalism doesn’t just concern how you look. It’s mostly about how you speak, how you behave and even how you think – these are all undeniable variables to a successful and professional workplace. And, needless to say, there is great payoff and gratification in maintaining a professional workplace.

Therefore, to demonstrate some professionalism, start by showcasing your understanding of workplace rules and expectations. You will of course have a hierarchical superior to supervise you, but you will demonstrate initiative and self-management skills. An employer expects you to work independently so they can focus on their own work, on their end.

This leads to responsibility in the workplace – you need to own it! Personal responsibility is critical to your success in the workplace. Your personal responsibility represents the level of commitment you have in identifying and achieving your goals. Another way to put it, your responsibility means being responsible for your actions, words and, ultimately, your performance at work. You’ll have to take credit for your successes, the easy part, and ownership of your failures, the harder part.

And responsibility itself leads to workplace ethics. It is as important to be ethical in day-to-day life as it is mandatory to be ethical in the workplace. Ethics correspond to moral principles that guide you when deciding between right or wrong. Ethics are tacit rules you refer to during any decision-making process. Exercise ethics in the workplace to assert your professionalism skill!

Last but not least: Mind. Your. Language. 

There is a reason your mother kept telling you when you were growing up to be polite and address people the proper way. Language is the single most important notion of communication – whether you are conversing with a colleague or with a client. Exercise using language that is proper for the workplace in your day-to-day discussions – this way, you get into the habit of sounding professional. Note that many people are denied a job because of their language level, written or oral!

Our 7 Tips for Achieving Professionalism

There are many ways to demonstrate professionalism in your working life. We’ve put together this list of seven ways that you can achieve this goal in your internship and future career!

1. Show Respect
  • Showing respect to others is one of the ultimate ways to show professionalism. Respect should be offered to everyone – your superiors, your co-workers, and those who work below you. You also need to show respect for the people you serve, they are your harshest critics, after yourself!
2. Communicate Effectively
  • Most disagreements, misunderstandings and arguments have a root problem: lack of communication. Good communication takes practice, but can, and will, save you from misunderstandings. Your ability to communicate effectively must be on par for you to keep operations fluid and running smoothly.
3. Be Proactive
  • Being proactive means anticipating needs, issues or changes before they arise. This is a great trait of professionals. Rather than reacting to events and getting flustered, you can try to anticipate what will happen and be prepared in advance. Professionalism is very much so linked with proactivity, and you can only be considered professional by also being proactive.
4. Be Positive
  • All jobs have their advantages and disadvantages. Try your utter best to limit or get rid of your complaints. Very few people want to work with someone who complains all the time. Rather than complaining, be a problem-solver who comes up with solutions for matters that are frustrating. If you need help with this, check out our Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving blog!
5. Remember Your Manners
  • A simple “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” go a long way to showing that you are a professional and human being. Being polite is the best antidote to rudeness and will set a perfect tone for teammates around you to follow. By taking the time to think of others – holding a door open or offering a hand – can earn you a great amount of respect and appreciation.
6. Keep Learning
  • Learning never stops, don’t forget that! Most career paths are continuously evolving and shifting. There are always new things to learn about in your field, as new discoveries are made. If you are well informed about your field of work, you can become a valued go-to person for your team members.
7. Forget About Your Screens
  • People get so sucked in and absorbed by their mobile devices that they forget to interact with other people, even when they are right in front of them. Demonstrate your professionalism skills by resisting that temptation. Of course, you can check your texts and email, but only a few times a day and during the appropriate moments. Remain present in the moment and provide your teammates with your full attention – it goes a long way.

Online Courses to Improve Your Professionalism Skills

Employability Skills

This course aims to improve employability skills through self-awareness, skills awareness, and enhancing career readiness. This course will equip the individual with the tools to identify their current skill set, understand those that need development, and transfer their skills to different job specifications using personal examples to showcase these. The aim of this course is to build confidence when applying for the next career step as well as provide a broader set of skills and attributes to ensure success throughout their working life.

By completing this course, students will be working towards the following key competencies: #Professionalism #CareerDevelopment and #Leadership!

Digital Competency

This course introduces the fundamentals of digital networking, digital marketing, and digital presentation skills. This course will introduce LinkedIn features and making the most of the LinkedIn profile, key differences and benefits between a variety of social media platforms, basic knowledge of SEO and SEM and techniques, and improving public speaking skills in a digital context.

By completing this course, students will be working towards the following key competencies: #Professionalism #CareerDevelopment #Teamwork&Collaboration and #DigitalFluency!

Additional Sources & Resources

  1. TEDx Talk: Professionalism, start small! – Dr Kyi Kyi Thinn
  2. TEDx Talk: Being a Professional – Dale Atkins
  3. TEDx Talk: Bring Your Whole Self to Work – Mike Robbins
  4. TEDx Talk: Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication, Determine Your Success – Louise Evans
  5. What Does Professionalism Look Like?
  6. The Limits of Professional Behavior
  7. 3 Traits of a Strong Professional Relationship
  8. Professionalism and Leadership: Be the PM That Has Both Skills
  9. Professionalism: Tips for Being Your Best on the Job