What is professionalism anyway?
Talk about a subjective question. Just like resumes, high impact professionalism is viewed in many different ways. For the most part, it is defined as bringing your best to any situation, being respectful, timely and engaged and always treating others as you would like to be treated.
Sounds a bit like words of wisdom that we learned from our parents years ago.
Still some level of professionalism is required for career success. When it’s ignored for the intent of achieving results it can lead to career destruction. Take the example of a client of mine who is actively advancing their career. One day they experienced a huge setback that resulted from their self-identified lack of professionalism.
To be specific, they admittedly were late for a meeting with a key decision maker in their organization. While that may seem like a small infringement, it prompted the individual to share with my client how often they’ve noticed my client’s disregard for professionalism, including not responding to emails and being late for conference calls and group meetings. Yes, these small infringements hadn’t gone unnoticed and they were quickly adding up.
We all make mistakes and that shouldn’t impact our success. But if we continue to misunderstand or disregard professionalism it eventually can lead to trouble.
To help all of us better define professionalism and look for ways we can use it to ours and others’ career advantage, I turned to the experts for some basic fundamentals of professionalism:
- Always return calls and emails. Return all correspondence (unless of course it’s spam). It’s considered rude to ignore communication and yes, that can negatively impact your career and reputation. If you don’t have time to answer a pressing note or call and it will be several days until you can, then let the sender know that you need some time.
- Invoke common courtesies. Opening doors, arriving on time (or early) and saying “please” and “thank you” may seem trite but they have huge impact on your personal and professional reputation.
- Keep it positive. Despite the fact that you may have hurt feelings or issues that need to be resolved, strive for positive communication. There’s nothing worse than a negative email—it only indicates weakness and unprofessionalism in the sender.
- Show up prepared. Professionalism extends from how we show up to the research you’ve conducted on an organization to your appearance and materials that you present. Showing that you cared enough to take the time to prepare and that you respect the individual(s) that you are interacting with by the way you present yourself goes a long way toward demonstrating professionalism.
- Watch your language. This isn’t a finger wag of admonishment, but rather a gentle reminder that what we say in person and online can impact our careers and reputations. You don’t have to go as far as yes ma’am or yes sir if you don’t want to, but being rude or unkind in our dialogue can be damaging. Of course the words “I’m sorry” go a long way in mending fences and building trust.
How to Be Career Happy? Know What Professionalism Is and How It Can Impact Your Career Success.