Professionalism is not an act. They are the same both on and off the job.
When you think of carrying yourself as a professional, you may think of appearance. (You’d be partially right! See Personal Appearance podcast from Jan 18, 2017.) You may also think of a certain profession such as doctors, the military, hotel staff, or executives. Both of these get partial credit, but what you wear won’t make you professional alone and a position doesn’t automatically make you a professional. There have been plenty of stories in the news lately about “professionals” acting like everything but one. Here is what carrying yourself as a true professional looks like.
You’re self-motivated: Noone needs to tell you what the next move is. You care enough to seek it out yourself and you are in tune enough with your surroundings that you anticipate needs and begin to meet them before they arise. You seek out to learn new things in your area and in those areas that impact you. You take hold of your own career instead of hoping someone else happens to see your work. You can also carry yourself through tough times.
You’re respectful of all people: You don’t look at people or tasks as beneath you. Even if you aren’t in your dream job, you give it your all and appreciate those around you. No matter how different people are from you, you have empathy and deal with them in a way that is caring and sincere.
You’re early and always deliver on a promise: People can count on you. If you say it, then it will happen. You meet your time commitments and are known to over deliver on a promise.
You inspire others: You make people believe that they can do more than they think. They trust you fully. You always try to see a solution to a problem and you rarely if ever let a circumstance dictate your attitude. You tackle challenges head-on with excitement and enthusiasm.
You’ve likely heard that you should dress for the job that you want, not the one that you have. A secret that has helped me over the years is to apply this thought to your everyday actions as well. If you are a part-time person working somewhere serve people so well and carry yourself so that they would mistake you for the manager. Let them mistake the manager for the owner. I worked on a special project that found me on the other side of the country. After spending several days helping a team adapt to our organization, the manager stops me and says, “Who are you?” They thought I was in a much higher position than I was. On paper, we were actually equaled. It was one of the greatest compliments I ever received.
Carry yourself as a professional and watch yourself stand out for excellence.
Make a better tomorrow.