The Importance of Professionalism

Janis Yee  

Professionalism is not about how you look, it’s about how you act that matters the most. How well you work with other people in the world strongly determines how far you go. It takes courage, empathy, and a strong set of values to mark you as a professional.

Professionalism is not about how you look, it’s about how you act that matters the most. How well you work with other people in the world strongly determines how far you go. It takes courage, empathy, and a strong set of values to mark you as a professional.

This is important, especially for those of you starting out on your journey, startup, or career. Working with others who are paying you for your unique set of skills requires a specific type of professional character that benefits you in the following ways:

  • It’s a competitive advantage. Everyone will want to work with you rather than others who may be better skilled than you.
  • It will justify your value to those around you.
  • You will be recognized as a reliable, honest, and responsible person.
  • Clients are more likely to provide a positive testimony. Managers will want to provide you with that much-needed reference.

Here are a few soft skills that will help give you the extra edge in your career.

Always reply in a timely manner

This is not a tip to micromanage you, or about appearing ‘too eager’. Lots of people lose opportunities because they are poor communicators. If someone sends you a message, regardless of who it is and whether you have an answer for them, just reply with something. Don’t even ignore it to figure out a solution. It may be too late by then.
Here are some examples of common quick responses you can use:

  • Can’t commit now? “I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you in <specific time period>.”
  • Recruiters on LinkedIn may not like it but they do appreciate this one: “No, I’m not currently interested.”
  • If you don’t know what they are asking, just ask for clarification. “What do you mean by X?”

Some of you might think that doing this is a make-work waste of time, but consider that it is part of the basics of communicating with empathy. What if that moment was in person? Would you give them the silent treatment while figuring that thing out or think about your response?

Now, imagine if someone did that to you. How would that make you feel?

We are so caught up in the web of efficiency online that we forget how to treat others like human beings. A simple reply with empathy will do here.

Own things you say you’ll do

Most of us have a negative impression of people who make promises. Perhaps this comes from childhood when your expectations are broken by a parent who promised to show up for your school recital but never came. (OK, maybe this only happened to me, but you know what I mean.)

As much as others place their trust in you, they also naturally carry doubt. Following through with the task in the time period that you pledged will help give them the impression that you are a responsible person. This includes being punctual and being available when you say you are. If you are a store owner, don’t close that shop early if you have published hours of service.

You need to own it. Consistency is the key to building trust with others. If you are always fulfilling your commitments, you spend less time figuring out how to explain to them how you failed – when you reply to them in a timely manner. (Ha! 🙂 See what I did there?)

If you can’t own it, just say so and move on. The point is to not waste time and be more conscientious of the things you commit to.

Learn to apologize and make it right

Naturally, we all make mistakes. When we realize it was our own, we go into a state of panic that triggers our fight or flight response. Well, don’t panic. Swallow your pride and fess up. It’s the only honest way to deal with it with dignity as a professional adult.

If you can’t commit to something because <reasons>, just mention that as early as possible. You and whoever you are working with can figure it out together. It won’t damage your image, and if anything you’ll carry forward with a better relationship with your boss, client or colleagues.

Stay positive

If you’ve had a bad morning, don’t bring that attitude to your work. Your emotions, both negative and positive, impact the energy of all those around you. That isn’t a hokey statement. Someone actually ‘scienced’ it out. You can watch it in Tom Shadyac’s documentary, “I Am” where he talks about the yogurt experiment.

Similarly, if you encounter any roadblocks, try to think of solutions rather than amplifying the problem. Everyone you work with will appreciate this one.

Be true to yourself

Honesty, reliability, and good communication are basic things that you should already believe in to be successful. This doesn’t mean you keep up a guise just to make a form a good impression. People will catch on. You can still do all of the above without sacrificing your sense of identity.

It all starts with being more aware of how your actions impact others. Keep track of how small changes in your behaviour will improve the behaviour of others towards you. You will start seeing a difference.

Now go forth and start charging others what you are worth since you are the definition of a quality human being.

Bloom as a professional and let success follow.

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