Get Ahead By Being Professional

Get Ahead By Being Professional



By Executive Coach, Karen Nutter


Think Fast– Of the people you know, who exhibits the most professionalism? What makes them seem professional to you? How does their professionalism affect your relationship with them?

Regardless of your position in a company, your level of professionalism can affect not only how people interact and respond to you, but your overall success. Fortunately, with a little effort, professionalism is something that anyone can develop within themselves.

Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.”

That can include a pretty broad spectrum of attributes and actions, making professionalism very subjective, especially when you consider the variety of corporate values and cultures. Still, there are some professional characteristics that apply across any business.

Think about the person you view as highly professional. How do they dress? Even if you are required to wear a uniform, you can exhibit a level of professionalism by ensuring it is neat, clean, and fits you properly. What you wear and how you wear it can indicate how seriously you take your job, and yourself.

The other day, I was in a local drugstore and witnessed an incredible level of professionalism from the pharmacy tech. It was a busy time of day and several people were in line to drop off or pick up their prescription, when a woman walked up and started complaining loudly about the line. When she approached the counter, she continued complaining to the pharmacy tech and berated her for not working faster. While some people may have gotten upset by the woman’s negative and adversarial nature, the pharmacy tech smiled, apologized, and graciously spoke to the woman throughout the encounter. Your demeanor says a lot about who you are as a person, and true professionals have high levels of self-regulation that help them stay calm and kind even when they’re under pressure.

Are you someone who is early, on-time, or late to most meetings? While it may not seem like a big deal to be a little late, if you become known for running late, you lose credibility. And, when you lose credibility, people see you as unreliable. And, when people see you as unreliable, you aren’t likely to be asked to participate on special projects, or receive that promotion you were hoping for. True professionals are respectful of other people’s time, including the time they dedicate to their employer – no extra-long lunches, or leaving early every Friday.

When I provide workshops to companies, I like to ask participants what characteristic they think is most important in a leader. More often than not, the answer is accountability. People are more likely to positively engage with, support, and follow someone they feel is accountable. This means they take responsibility for themselves and their team, no matter what. People who take accountability step up when things aren’t working out, rather than standing back and waiting for someone else to fix things. They take ownership, and look for solutions. Anyone can exhibit accountability in their job, regardless of their role in the company.

Overall, professionalism is about doing the right thing, treating people well, and respecting the company and people you work with, and for. The nice benefit of behaving in a professional manner is that the more you do it, the more respect you will receive – and that can take your career to new heights!

What is your most Professional characteristic?