Professionalism: 11 Important Workplace Qualities

professional woman sitting at a computer laughing

Mateus Campos Felipe/Unsplash

Kristina Udice
Kristina Udice
May 20, 2024 at 3:9AM UTC
Professionalism is pivotal to career success, a recent study on Career Readiness conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found, with 97.5% of employers who responded calling it absolutely essential or essential. The workplace has certainly changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn't mean professionalism is any less important.

What is career professionalism? 

Being professional might mean a variety of things, from how you dress at work to how you perform. Mastering professionalism at work is vital for success and happiness on the job. Contrary to what some believe, true professionalism in the workplace is not restricted to any industry. Whether you’re a waitress working a part-time job or a lawyer making six-figures, you need to practice professional behavior and be hard working. There are certain standards of professional conduct, and not meeting them could make or break your future at a company.

How to be professional.

No matter what your field, how you conduct yourself matters. There are expected behaviors in every job field, though the degree, strictness and amount of practice and training may vary.  Being aware of these behaviors could save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Exhibiting professional behavior isn’t as easy as one might think. It’s not just about doing a good job and exhibiting a stellar work ethic. You could be a star salesperson but not have the knowledge or responsibility of a professional person. Workplace professionalism is a mindset. It’s about decorum and respect. It’s about responsibility, knowledge, standards and ethics. It’s the persona you put out to the world and into your work for others to see — and it will set you apart from your colleagues.

11 indicators of professionalism in the workplace.

1. Manage your time.

Time management skills and techniques are something every professional person in the workforce should master. Make it a point not to be late. If you set a deadline for yourself, or a deadline is set for you, make sure you finish that project on time. Because when you’re late or you miss a deadline without any reason or understandable excuse, you are telling your colleagues and bosses that you have little respect for their processes. You’re also showing you have very little work ethic. To ensure you don’t fall into this hole, make sure you’re constantly aware of the time. If anything, you should be arriving early and finishing projects before the deadline to show that you do indeed care.

2. Have a positive attitude.

Try to always be polite and considerate to others. You want to be pleasant and approachable so that others can look to and lean on you if necessary. This doesn’t mean being a doormat but being reliable and helpful. If your supervisors and colleagues can see that you are happy and working hard, there is a higher likelihood that you will be thought of when big, exciting projects or clients enter the picture.

3. Keep your drama at home.

Don’t let a bad mood ruin your workday — and especially don’t let a bad mood linger longer on for days. Of course, you will have your moments. Everyone does. But it’s imperative that you keep it hidden as best you can. You don’t want to get the reputation as the office drama queen, so try to separate your personal issues from work matters.

4. Dress the part.

We’re not here to tell you how to dress or dictate your business attire. But how you present yourself in the workplace is important. Whether your work allows you to dress casually or requires you to wear a suit, you should always look put-together, clean and neat. Hair should always be washed. Teeth should always be brushed. Last night’s makeup shouldn’t be smeared under your eyes. Wear what makes you comfortable and is acceptable by your employer — just make sure you look neat and clean in the process.

5. Hold yourself accountable.

We all make mistakes, but in the workplace, it’s important you own up to them and take accountability. Even if it isn’t a mistake per se, it’s still important to hold yourself accountable for your actions. If you make a mistake, fix it. If you don’t know how, ask for guidance. And once you’ve made a mistake, learn from it. Don’t make the same mistake twice because that shows a lack of care, respect and understanding on your part. 

6. Tell the truth.

On a related note, this also means it’s vital you don’t lie — whether it’s about a mistake you made, a skill or experience you said you have or calling out sick when you're feeling just fine. You want to show reliability in what you do, and lying will only discredit you further. Make sure you’re always aware of your words and action.

7. Master the art of organization.

Organization is a vital skill to master in the workplace. You want to have a clean and organized desk so that you can easily find what you’re looking for in a pinch. You want an organized and coordinated desktop and filing system so that you can pull a file from a folder as soon as it’s asked of you. You want to look organized and put together physically so you are taken seriously right from the start. Making organization a priority saves you time and energy, and lets others know you can be counted on and relied upon. 

8. Learn how to communicate well.

Try collecting your thoughts and formulating your words before speaking them. Similarly, when it comes to emails and other written communication, be direct, concise and polite. Use full sentences and stay away from slang or colloquialisms unless you know that it is acceptable to communicate in this way. You should always speak professionally when talking to customers and clients.

9. Collaborate with others.

Working well with others is essential to demonstrating your professionalism. Teamwork is what leads to business success — not one person micromanaging others or taking credit for an entire project. When you learn how to rely on others, while still shouldering some of the responsibility yourself, you demonstrate that you understand your role and responsibility to the business and your team.

10. Ask for help when you need it.

But doesn't being professional mean you shouldn't need help? No! Being professional also means understanding your weaknesses and knowing when you can't do something on your own. It also means sharing the effort and allowing yourself and others to capitalize on your strengths. This will demonstrate that you're self-aware — another important quality of professionalism.

11. Have integrity

Having integrity is somewhat similar to being accountable. You don’t want to engage in workplace gossip or scandals which would shed a negative life on you as a person. Even when faced with a stressful or difficult situation, it’s important to keep your composure and be true to yourself. Having integrity means always keeping your word and doing the right thing. It’s having personal ethics and staying true to them. It’s also vital that if you say you’ll do something, that you do it. This will make you someone that your co-workers can trust and your supervisors will respect and appreciate. 
These values are not just about the work itself, but how a person interacts and creates relationships with coworkers, clients and customers.
These qualities will help you demonstrate your professionalism and thrive in the workplace — leading to great success in your future.

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