Professionalism generally refers to the competence, adequacy or skill that is expected of someone who is a professional in a particular field, especially a sport. However, professionalism can be defined broadly to mean the good judgment, skill and polite manners that are expected of a person who is a trained professional in a certain field to perform a job well.
CHARACTERISTICS OF PROFESSIONALISM
Being a professional entails more than just being in possession of a degree in a certain field or having a title to accompany your position in an organization. Professionalism has to be evident in the way you handle yourself while conducting business matters or affairs. Good professionals must possess the following important characteristics;
- Appearance: professionals should always be neat in the way they appear. They should always strive to meet and whenever possible exceed the dress code requirements of the company. They should especially pay attention to the way they dress when meeting with clients.
- Demeanour: sometimes professionals tend to exude over-confidence which is almost always construed as being cocky. This shouldn’t be the case, professionalism demands that you need confident but in a well-spoken and polite manner. Being calm even in tense situations helps to show that you are confident but not cocky.
- Reliability: all professionals are required to deliver no matter the difficulty of the task at hand. Always getting the job done shows reliability on your part. Be prompt and always keeping your promises is equally important as reliability usually goes hand in hand with these two elements of productivity.
- Competence: for a professional to stand out in his/her field of practice, he/she needs to set him/herself apart from the rest by becoming an expert in that particular field. Furthering of your studies to higher education levels, attending conferences and seminars and attaining professional designations go a long way in ensuring you are a competent professional.
- Ethics: all professionals should portray ethical behavior always especially when attending to clients. Even if an organization does not have a written code, ethical behavior is a must do for all professionals. Certain professionals such as lawyers, doctors, and even police officers have a very strict code of ethics that they must adhere to.
- Maintaining your poise: everyday professionals are faced with difficult situations at their places of work. In the face of all these different kinds of situations, a professional would do well to maintain his cool or rather poise to avoid any avoidable circumstance from happening. Say for instance a customer or a colleague treats you in a manner that you don’t like, it will serve you well to hold back any response that may lead to an altercation, never resort to payback as it will only lead to further problems which are totally avoidable.
- Phone etiquette: an important component of professionalism is phone etiquette. Communication has been made easy by the use of telephones but phone etiquette remains to be a very thorny issue. As a professional, when placing or receiving a call it is important to introduce yourself adequately by stating your full name, the company you work for an even your job title. Also, make sure to listen as much as you speak if not more.
- Written correspondence: when writing a correspondence, it is very important to avoid irrelevant matters by being brief and sticking to the subject matter of the letter. You should always be formal and very polite. This characteristic should also be evident in your email correspondence. Don’t be too ‘wordy’ as the person you are writing to may be too busy to read everything you are writing. Always stick to the point and be as brief as you can.
- Organisational skills: all professionals should strive to make their workstations neat and clean. This will make it easy to trace a single document from a within a pile. When going for a presentation or appointment your briefcase should only contain what you need for the appointment or presentation. This will help you not to fumble with unnecessary documents when you are actually at the meeting.
- Accountability: true professionals are always accountable for their deeds whenever called upon to do so. If you commit an error, be courageous enough to own it and work towards fixing it if possible. If it is the organization that made the mistake, be responsible and work towards finding a solution for the mistake. Don’t be a professional who always apportions blame to others rather be a problem solver.
HOW TO IMPROVE PROFESSIONALISM
The following are some of the ways:
- Character: this is the most important aspect of professionalism. It always starts with you as an individual and your behavior before it boils down to others within the workplace or even without. The best way of testing your own character or integrity is by checking your behavior when you are alone and no one is watching.
- Care: good professionals are always invested in their work. They do take responsibility and crave for success both at an individual level and an organizational level by taking interest in strategy and company direction.
- Grooming: all professionals should be conscious of their image. Dressing appropriately shows consideration to others and expresses a desire to make your colleagues comfortable with your dressing.
- Customer service: the way you treat a customer speaks volumes about you as a professional. Building good relationships with your customers is a recipe for customer service. Professionals should always strive to exceed customer expectations.
- Communication: your utterances to colleagues and clients go a long way in communicating to others whether you are a top professional or not. What you say should not be offensive or demeaning.
- Composure: all professionals should be level-headed when dealing with stressful situations. They should remain calm to avoid escalating the matter to greater proportions.
- Commitment: Commitment is a pre-requisite for all professionals. You should always maintain professionalism even when it is probably easier not to. This goes to show that you are engaged and very conscious.
Based on the above characteristics, several ways of improving professionalism can be drawn out.