You spend years studying, you graduate, and then you realize it takes more than a piece of paper to land you your dream job.
College might teach you the ins and outs of your profession, but it won’t teach you “professionalism”.
Professionalism is a powerful, yet underrated, life skill which might be the key to unlocking an exceptional career.
Exhibiting professionalism in the workplace is one of the simplest career hacks you can implement, and it’s guaranteed to put you a step ahead of your peers.
You ask how we know this? Because according to the stats, most millennials don’t behave professionally, and most employers still value this trait. In fact, “unprofessional behavior” has been marked as one of the leading reasons for employees being fired, and also for potential candidates not being hired in the first place.
A survey was taken by 401 American HR staff regarding the level of professionalism in new graduates:
49% said less than half of new graduates behave professionally in their first year in the workplace
53% said that new graduates have a “sense of entitlement” and this attitude is on the rise
43% said that work ethic among younger employees is worsening, and this includes employees having “too casual” an attitude towards work, and simply not understanding the concept of hard work.
Professionalism isn’t brain science. Sure, it takes discipline, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s a simple set of rules that become habitual over time. Here’s a quick run through of the 10 basic rules of professionalism. Take a moment to read through them, see where you could be falling short, and find ways to improve.
1. Bad Communication
This includes both your written correspondence and communicating over the phone and in person. When it comes to emails, be sure to respond quickly, politely and professionally, making sure you fix any typos and grammar mistakes. When it comes to the phone, listen to your messages and get back to people quickly. When you say you’ll call someone back, call them back.
In general, good professional communication also means being able to communicate orders, information and ideas. It means making an effort to communicate in a calm, clear, and respectful way – leaving the F-bombs at the door and keeping your emotions in check.
2. Not Keeping Promises
Simple. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. You might have the best intentions at the time, but everyone will suffer in the long run if you don’t stick to your word. Be realistic about the deadlines you set for yourself, be honest about your abilities, and make a concerted effort to write down and remember what you’ve promised people. People lose confidence in you when you repeatedly don’t deliver on your word.
3. Having thin skin
There’s nothing more irritating than office politics, and it’s often a result of people being over sensitive and getting their feelings hurt. I’m not for a moment endorsing bullying or harassment, but when it comes to receiving criticism about your work, you’ve got to take it like the exceptional professional human being that you are. Whether it’s justified, or not. Keep a hold of yourself will you.
Woah… do we really need to mention this one? Crazy as it may sound, the stealing of lunch and office supplies is one of the biggest complaints to HR personnel. So yes, we’re mentioning it, because it’s a no no, and very unprofessional.
5. Not giving your best
There’s nothing that stalls your growth more than not giving your best. It doesn’t help you, and it sure doesn’t help the person paying you. If you don’t feel your job interests you, or pays enough, maybe it’s better to look for something new.
“Did you hear about John with Jane? What an idiot…”
Gossip might be a temporary escape that makes you feel like you’re bonding with your co-workers, but it is never ok. It’s very unprofessional, it will get you into trouble, and it’s just not nice. Talking about others (even the big bad boss) also makes people question whether they can trust you, which is not the type of reputation conducive to career development. Also, keep in mind that when you talk about others, it automatically gives people license to talk about you. So if you want to stay in everyone’s good books, and not be the next hot topic, keep your lips sealed.
The workplace has become a lot more casual than it once was, but still, the way you dress makes a difference. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “don’t dress for the position you have, dress for the position you want”. It’s cliche for a reason, because it’s so true that it’s been repeated a million times over. People tend to judge us by our appearances, so why not look ready for a promotion?
8. Being Punctual
Being on time shows you respect the people you’re meeting with, and also that you value their time as much as your own. The concept of being “fashionably late” is really quite bizarre, and definitely does not apply when it comes to professionalism.
9. The blame game
So what, we all make mistakes, don’t try shift the blame. Learn to recognise when you’ve made a mistake and own up to it, and even apologize if need be. Admitting mistakes and apologies are so rare these days, that people have a lot more respect and appreciation for them.
No one likes a bully. Sometimes people think that if they want to climb the ladder they need to squash everyone else around them. Truth be told, it’s much better to work with people who like and respect you, than with people who cringe at the sight of you. Being nice goes a long way! 😉