Professionalism is important to having a successful career, but what does that actually mean? After all, professionalism is rarely taught; you’re supposed to pick it up on your own through a combination of observation and osmosis. However, learning on the job can be fraught with land mines, since you might not even see your mistakes coming. Here are some key elements of professionalism that you should master early in your career.
Pay attention to cultural norms in your organization: If you watch how others in your office operate, you will learn all sorts of important things about “how we do things here.” For instance, you might observe that everyone shows up precisely on time for meetings, or that people rely on email for non-urgent questions. These are important signals for what will be expected of your own behavior — and you’ll come across as tone-deaf if you ignore them.
Be pleasant and polite to people: You will have to work with people whom you just don’t care for, and even with people who aren’t very nice. You’ll look far more professional if you don’t let them get under your skin and instead remain cordial and easy to work with.
Take work seriously: If you make a mistake or something doesn›t go well, don›t brush it off or use cavalier responses. Accept responsibility for your part in what went wrong.
Speak up when work isn’t getting done on time: Part of taking real ownership for your work means that you›re responsible for alerting your boss when things are going off course, rather than trying to ignore it or just hoping that no one notices.
Realize that feedback is not personal: Getting angry or defensive or otherwise taking it personally when your manager gives you feedback can be an easy trap to fall into, but it will make you look less professional. And after all, if you care about doing your job well and advancing, wouldn’t you want to know where you need to do better?
Write clearly and professionally: That means no text speak, and correct punctuation and capitalization. You do need to take care that you don’t sound like you’re texting a friend or behaving too casual.
Be helpful, doing more than what’s is expected: The way that you gain a great professional reputation — which will give you options that you can use to earn more money, get out of bad situations and not have to take the first job that comes along — is by doing more than the bare minimum required. That means always looking for ways to do your job better, helping out colleagues when you can, and not balking at new projects.