In this day and age of absolute busyness, characteristics like professionalism could easily get sidelined. Yet, professionalism is vital in every workplace.  Being professional sets one on a higher level than others in the same position.  Clients and Customers are immediately attracted to the professional person. But what is professionalism? Is it only related to your attire or your qualifications?  Not at all. Professionalism is more than just dressing nice or having achieved a certain level of Education. To be considered professional in the working world, one must have a few more qualities which will be readily noticed and appreciated.

Definition of Professionalism

A dictionary’s definition of professionalism is “the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person; it implies a high quality of workmanship or service.”

Customers Want You To Be Professional

Clients and customers want you to be professional, even if you think professionalism is outdated, because they want to “feel” that they are getting the most for their money.

Your professionalism will be displayed not only through your look or image but also through your work, and how you relate to others, including your colleagues and your boss.

Want To Improve Your Professionalism? 

Consider Your Attire

Yes, dress is important. To be considered professional you must look the part. Dress as if you’re going to work, not the same way you would dress to attend a social function or a casual outing with friends. Further, dress as if you mean business, not as if you’re flirting or out to attract someone. How you wear your clothes is also relevant to professionalism. Do you as a man, walk with your jackets flying in the wind? Or do you know that when you’re standing your jacket should be buttoned, and unbuttoned when seated? Is your shirt buttoned up or do clients have to see part of your chest while you’re working? As a woman, are your work outfits too tight, too short or do they reveal too much?

Consider Your Relationships

You can be professional or unprofessional in your relationships. How do you treat people? Are you courteous, pleasant and polite? Courtesy to others will show in how you act and react to them. It will also show  in your patience with them, whether you’re willing to listen to them, as well as in what some may consider “little things”,  such as holding a door open for someone, greeting your colleagues on entering your office in the morning or even greeting a customer you happen to meet in the lobby. And definitely, it will show up in your self control, self respect and respect for others.  These are the qualities which will impress both the customer and those with whom you work.

Consider Your Work

I mean your output. Is your work well done? Is it completed on time, and is it free from grammatical errors when it gets to your Supervisor, Boss or the Client? Even if you are laying bricks, is it well done, are your measurements correct? If your work is receiving and relating to customers, is it done with a smile and with patience? Do you give your customers the best possible service?

Consider Your Integrity

Be professional also in your integrity. It makes no sense being professional in your attire, and how you relate to people, but you could end up in jail for dishonesty. You must also be accountable especially when dealing with other people’s property, whether it is in cash or kind, and definitely, giving a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. People must know they can depend on you. Even if your profession does not have written codes of conduct, you can adopt some based on your own moral and ethical values. Respect and observe rules, written and unwritten.  This is always the best policy.

Consider Your Confidentiality

How confidential are you? People must not be afraid to leave their personal information or documents in your possession. They must know that whatever they tell you, or whatever personal documents they leave in your care, are safe from other people’s knowledge. Many workplaces have a confidentiality section in the employment agreement they may have signed. If there is none, for your own integrity, set your own standards and respect the privacy of those whose personal information you are custodian of. You will gain respect and trust of those with whom you work, and those who confide in you.

Consider Your Self Improvement

Always seek to grow intellectually and to add to your knowledge, skills and abilities, whether for enhancing your efficiency at work or for your social life. Set new horizons to aim towards as you attain older ones. Always be working towards something. When we stop working towards new horizons, we stop growing. It is said that “continuous self development is a pre-requisite in offering professional service at all times”.

Consider Your Role as A Leader

Note that the longer you stay in a job, others will look to you for guidance, mentorship, and example. Even if you don’t want them to, they will be looking at you and to you, and doing just what you do. In a workshop I held some time ago, someone asked “why do our supervisors say one thing and do another? For example, why do they say come to work on time, and they don’t? Or why do they say don’t stay too long on personal calls, and they do?” My answer to that is “establish for yourself moral and ethical principles and stand by them, because others are looking at you.” And when it comes to being a role  model, live an exemplary life at work as well as  off the job.


Professionalism is all about being the best that you can. If you want to be seen as professional strive for excellence in your character, and the service that you give.  Excellence helps you to make a good impression on your customers/ clients, bosses and colleagues. Being seen as professional can open doors of opportunities for you either in the workplace or in the social world. Professionalism is highly valued by every employer, whether in a small or large company. So be professional.

Alice Thomas-Roberts

Facilitator, Presenter, Coach and Author

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