What is Professionalism?
Professionalism is the ability to conduct oneself with responsibility, integrity, accountability and excellence. Sharon Burton and Nelda Shelton, in their book “Office Procedures for the 21st Century” define professionalism as aspiring to meet the highest possible standards of your profession rather than a set of minimum requirements.
Professionalism, in it’s broader sense, is not just one particular skill, but a combination of both soft and hard skills. Someone who demonstrates professionalism has the skills to perform specific job tasks and also works well with others. A skill is something that an office professional does well. Today’s employers look for employees who have the hard skills to perform the job and the soft skills to get along with coworkers, supervisors and customers. Professionalism and soft skills go hand in hand.
Professionalism in todays Diverse Environment
Professionalism is no longer just limited to the workplace. Todays employees work in a variety of settings including remotely at home and both at home and in-office settings. According to a recent article by Forbes, as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, while 28.2% work a hybrid model (both at home and in-office some days a week). While not all office jobs are suitable for remote work, the executive assistant was noted in the article as one of the most common job postings,
While remote work has its benefits, demonstrating professionalism remotely requires good communication skills, team-work and problem solving skills to effectively do the job.
In addition to where people work, generational, cultural and diversity divisions also exist that have called for new standards and understanding of professionalism in the workplace.
What is Professionalism and how to Exhibit It?
Professionalism is achieved by striving to exhibit many of the soft skills listed below:
1, Be Reliable and Dependable:
Proving you are responsible on the job is one of the key personal qualities of the office professional. Whether you work remotely or in the office, make sure you perform the tasks assigned by your supervisor or manager to the best of your ability. Keep your supervisor informed of your progress and inform him/her of any obstacles that might prevent you from meeting your deadline.
2. Take Initiative
Look for opportunities to gain additional responsibilities by taking the initiative to ask your supervisor if you can assist him/her with a project or special event that is on the horizon. This could be as simple as refilling the office supplies that are getting low or setting up a system for the office staff to easily access frequently used forms online. By gaining additional responsibility, you will be able to demonstrate your level of initiative to your supervisor and other coworkers as well.
3. Show Up on Time
It’s also important that you are known as dependable and someone that can be relied upon to come to work every day on time. Today’s employers cannot afford to tolerate tardiness so organize your life such that you can practice an excellent attendance record by arriving at work on time each morning and returning to your desk promptly after breaks and lunch. Remember, your employer and the entire conpany is dependent on your presence, whether that’s in the office or remote.
4. Develop Positive Self-Esteem and Attitude
Self-esteem is defined as the opinion you have of yourself. Having high self-esteem causes you to be more confident and possess a good attitude which affects you both at home and in the workplace. Having a positive attitude impacts everything you do in life but in particular, how you perform in your job. People with a positive attitude are generally more successful in their work life.
5, Be Sociable
This comes naturally for some people and is not so easy for others. However, being social with your co-workers does help develop a positive office environment and a place where people enjoy going each day. Start out by just being friendly and greet your co-workers with a pleasant smile at work each day. To develop a sense of belonging and to support office personal, try to take part in office get-together’s such as birthday celebrations, lunches and holiday celebrations.
6. Exhibit Self-Management:
This is basically an exercise in self control and evaluating a situation before your react. When confronted with difficult situations, allow yourself time to think and evaluate the situation to avoid displaying an inappropriate attitude you’ll regret later.
7. Display Integrity/Honesty
It’s important that you are sincere and trustworthy on the job and follow your companies code of ethics. The code of ethics sets high standards for professional integrity in the workplace in areas such as honesty, loyalty, social responsibility and protection of company information and property. Companies will often post a summary of their code of ethics on their website.
8. Project a Pleasant Personality
One thing that makes life interesting is that everyone has different personalities and some people have better personalities than others. According to the Personality System website, over the years there have been many different definitions for what personality is and that most of the definitions refer to a mental system — a collection of psychological parts including motives, emotions, and thoughts.
9. Show Your Human Side
It’s possible to be viewed as a professional and still show your human side and this can be accomplished simply by greeting your co-workers or customers with a friendly smile and a “good morning” or “good afternoon”. Shelton and Burton, in their book Office Procedures for the 21st Century (8th Edition) recommend that you treat each person as if they are important to you and that the little things do count. Being thoughtful will help you enjoy your relationship with others more.
10. Projecting a professional image
The book, “Soft Skills in the Workplace” define image as “the perception others have of a person based on that person’s dress, behavior, and speech. It is what people remember about a person from business, professional, and even social interactions.” Does this mean you need to dress in formal attire every day? Not at all. For the office professional, a professional image can achieved through a variety of ways such as a well manicured appearance, a willingness to continually learn and grow and keep up with industry trends, taking pride in one’s work and applying quality standards and belonging to professional organizations. Being a team player and one who demonstrates honesty and respect for others is all part of the professional image. Professionals take every opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by helping to solve problems and contribute ideas.
To improve your office skills and learn more about professionalism and other valuable soft skills, take the Soft Skills Training for Administrative Professionals course on officeskills.org.
Author Bio: Dawn Bieser is the Founder, Instructor and Virtual Office Professional with OfficeSkills.org. Dawn has been teaching office skills for over two decades, both in the classroom and on her website, officeskills.org. She enjoys using her skills in education and technology to help individuals improve their effectiveness and efficiency and gain new skills. You can find more about her on her About page.