An In-Depth Guide to Professionalism

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 6 September 2022

Published 26 August 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Learning and embracing professional behaviour is crucial to excelling in the workplace. Employers expect both prospects and hired staff to reflect professionalism while interacting with others. Employees who exhibit personal professionalism enjoy more benefits, such as career growth and increments. In this article, we discuss professionalism and guide you in developing professional attributes.

What Is Professionalism?

Professionalism is the ability to be dependable, hardworking and respectful in a working environment. You can demonstrate this trait by how you manage yourself, respond to others and take on tasks. The characteristics of professionalism often include dressing appropriately, being respectful and staying positive. Acceptable professional behaviours can vary between different industries and jobs. However, a few important professional attributes are universal across almost all workplaces. For instance, being dependable, courteous and punctual are valuable in any industry.

How To Develop Professionalism

Whether you're a new hire starting with an entry-level position or a senior manager, you can still use the following steps to develop professionalism:

  1. Envision your professional goals to guide yourself. If you know what you want to achieve professionally, visualise it. This keeps you moving forward despite setbacks, and it can help you improve yourself professionally throughout any challenge.

  2. Focus on developing good habits. It takes time to develop new habits, so start small. Give yourself a goal, break it up into small steps and follow it backwards. Developing good habits makes you self-disciplined, which is an essential trait when developing your professionalism.

  3. Focus on one new character trait at a time. It takes practise to become good at something, so start with developing one professional trait at a time.

Ten Key Characteristics Of Professionalism

Here are some attributes and habits you can use to develop professionalism in yourself:

  1. Modesty

  2. Reliability

  3. Etiquette

  4. Consideration

  5. Neatness

  6. Work ethic

  7. Accountability

  8. Organisation

  9. Expertise

  10. Integrity

1. Modesty

Keeping yourself humble makes you aware of your strengths and limitations, and you learn to appreciate the value others create for the team. With a trait like this, people work together and cooperate as a team without anyone thinking themselves better than others. Employers generally recognise modesty when someone respects their peers and regards them for their accomplishments. Such employees usually see how outcomes affect a team rather than individuals.

You can practise modesty by doing the following:

  • Finding ways to establish others along with yourself

  • Realising your mistakes

  • Asking for support when necessary

  • Welcoming constructive criticism

  • Looking for advice from your seniors

  • Trying to meet company goals, even if you have to accept tasks of a junior level

  • Encouraging the team to share their ideas, thoughts and constructive criticism

2. Reliability

Reliability is critical to workplace success. Departments are more effective and productive when individuals can trust one another to work responsibly. When you and your team can trust one another to create quality work, meet deadlines and respond promptly to requests, it is easier to overcome challenges and achieve organisational goals.

To be reliable, you need to be adaptable and maintain focus on your job even during unforeseen circumstances. Consider an IT professional who recognises a bug and acts calmly to fix it. Employers usually consider experts who work in a disciplined manner because they prove to be more reliable and professional.

You can show reliability by practicing the following:

  • Always keeping close on questions or requests

  • Arriving early or on time for work, events and meetings

  • Maintaining a high work quality

  • Using a consistent approach in responding to issues

  • Following set procedures and processes

  • Focusing completely on the tasks ahead

3. Etiquette

Etiquette is a code of conduct or manners used for behaving in a workplace. Using appropriate etiquette usually means demonstrating good habits, being polite and showing courtesy and respect to others. Considering that business etiquette can vary among employers and industries, it is typically best to be more formal. This way, you can make sure you stay on friendly terms with those you meet.

You can show proper workplace etiquette by doing the following:

  • Greeting everyone new with a handshake

  • Dressing up properly

  • Using complete sentences and professional language in written communications

  • Setting your phone aside during meetings and in face-to-face interactions

  • Greeting everyone by name

  • Keeping eye contact while speaking with others

4. Consideration

Employees who are thoughtful of the people around them are careful of their needs, feelings and thoughts. They are kind to their customers and colleagues even during challenging times. Being considerate while conveying bad news or criticism for a task or its results is more helpful and productive. Simple acts like asking a peer about their weekend or helping a coworker in a challenging project show your thoughtful and empathetic manners.

Here are some ways to become more considerate at the workplace:

  • Be kind and polite to your customers, peers and managers.

  • Take action to help others in need.

  • Be respectful and tolerant of individuals and their feelings.

  • Listen carefully to others before responding.

5. Work ethic

Employers prefer hiring candidates who are passionate about their work. They may be likely to offer career advancement to those who engage more in the workplace. Having a strong work ethic shows your commitment and loyalty to the company in delivering better results through your work.
You can demonstrate strong work ethics by:

  • Volunteering and taking initiative for new projects

  • Showing a dedicated work ethic

  • Staying punctual

  • Fulfilling all deadlines

  • Displaying a positive attitude during work

6. Accountability

Accountability requires you to admit your failures and mistakes, which can be demanding. However, owning up to your behaviour shows your honest and forthright manners.

You can show accountability by:

  • Completing all assigned tasks on time

  • Taking responsibility for the project outcomes you have participated in

  • Striving to reach goals and helping your team meet company objectives

7. Neatness

Another essential aspect of professional behaviour is maintaining a formal appearance with cleanliness and good hygiene. This relates to both you and your workplace. It is important to wear clean clothing that meets your organisation's dress code and keep your workstation free of clutter. Neatness shows others you are organised, conscious of how you present yourself and prepared to handle your work responsibilities.

You can show neatness by:

  • Wearing well-ironed and clean clothing that is free from wear and tear

  • Choosing an appropriate dressing style for your job

  • Ensuring proper personal hygiene

  • Maintaining an organised and tidy work area

8. Organisation

Organising is often as important as neatness. Your workspace might be neat but still finding things on time can be difficult. This is why organising tasks and things are necessary. If your workspace is both organised and neat, you will find important things quickly and work more productively.

Organised professionals can better manage their obligations and time. They set their deadlines beforehand and know what they need to do at a given time. This way, they keep on track, remember all the necessary details and use each workday to their best ability.

You can be organised at work by:

  • Maintaining a clear plan

  • Updating and creating to-do lists

  • Always returning goods to their right locations

  • Preparing for work by gathering the required information and tools ahead of time

9. Expertise

There is no need to know about everything, but it is necessary to be an expert in the areas relevant to your work. For example, a lab technician who is well-informed about the new technologies for blood plasma centrifuging may appear more professional than someone unaware of the emerging best practises in the industry.

Often it takes continuous efforts to become an industry expert. To advance in your skills and knowledge, practise using new technology, sign up for relevant courses, attend conferences and have a mentor. The more you know about your field, the more expert you will appear.

You can show your expertise at work by:

  • Recommending new processes, tools and products to improve outcomes

  • Requesting feedback on performance from your manager to overcome your weaknesses

  • Staying up to date on the latest industry developments

  • Continuing learning in your field

  • Practicing essential skills frequently

  • Volunteering for trainings, both as an educator and a student

10. Integrity

Most businesses have a behavioural policy for their workers, yet you need to hold yourself to even higher standards of morality. You can show integrity by committing to your promises and being accountable.

Integrity is an essential part of professionalism as it shows others your standard of morality for yourself. Employees reflect integrity by accepting responsibilities for their actions and abiding by their words. They act quickly on workplace challenges rather than wait for them to be discovered.

You can demonstrate integrity at work by:

  • Keeping away from workplace gossip

  • Being fair in all your professional dealings

  • Maintaining confidentiality where required

  • Avoiding discussion on sensitive topics that are irrelevant to your job

  • Adhering to all business procedures and policies, even if nobody is watching

  • Recognising others for their achievements


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