10 Smart Ways to Become More Professional at Work


Everyone knows that they need to “be professional” at work, but many people do not know what that entails. The problem is that people tell you to be professional, but no one really teaches you how to do it.

The best you can hope for is a good role model on whom to base your own behavior, but not everyone has a good role model to mimic. Here are ten ways that you can boost your professionalism. Who knows, you might just become a role model for someone else at your job.

1. Timeliness

It does not matter if you have a meeting with the boss or some remote underling has asked for a moment of your time, showing up to meetings and engagements when they are scheduled is the first step to being a professional. It lets other people know that you valuable their time as much as you do your own. It also sends the subtle message that you are dedicated to your job.

2. Be polite

You should always be polite in professional interactions, no matter how trying they are or how frustrated you are from a long day at work. You do not have to like the people you work with, but you do have to treat them as colleagues and that means being courteous. An even mood and grace under pressure are the hallmarks of the consummate professional.

3. Ditch the gossip

Gossip is not just hurtful, it could hold back your career. By avoiding the office drama, you will send the message to your colleagues that you are there to work. What is more, they will see you as someone they can trust with information, which means you will be privy to secrets that can make or break your career.

4. Accept criticism

The trademark move of the unprofessional worker is to take criticism personally and respond by getting angry or by seeking revenge. Everyone is going to be criticized at work, it is how you deal with it that determines your level of professionalism.

Evaluate the criticism with objectivity. If it is relevant, take it into account. If it is not relevant, just thank the person for their feedback and move on.

5. Do more

Minimum coverage may be great for auto insurance, but it does not work well in your job. Doing “just enough” will help you keep your job, but it will not earn you the respect of your colleagues or that promotion you are gunning for. Do a little extra, even if it isn’t in your job description, because professionals consider the health of the entire corporation and not just themselves when they act.

6. Dress the part

Dress codes differ from one job to the next, but every job has one. Even if the dress code is not set down on paper, you can be certain there is an unspoken code that permeates the corporation. Adapt to the dress code, even if it is not your style. If you can muster the will, go a little bit above and beyond the dress code to really make an impression.

7. Separate work life and personal life

Do not take personal calls at work unless it is an emergency. You do not want work intruding on your personal life, so do not let your personal life take precedence during work hours. The professional knows when to stop texting, let a call go to voicemail, or turn off the ringer on his or her phone.

8. Speak up about problems

You need to take ownership of your work and part of taking ownership is acknowledging when you are having problems. Remember, the professional puts the health of the company head of his own needs. That means admitting that you need help, can’t get a project in on time, or have run into significant problems.

9. Be a team player

The “rock star” attitude will not do you much good in your professional life. You hear stories about rock stars who excel, but those people are the exception to the rule. Recognize that you get more done when you work as a team and work hard to be inclusive. Cohesive teams always do better than solo workers.

10. Be happy

This sounds quaint, but if you are not happy, you will not put your best foot forward. In some cases, it is your job that is making you unhappy. Find a new job in that situation because you will not do the one you have well if you do not like it.

If you can’t find a new one, then set out to make each day the best it can possibly be. Being miserable only serves to make things worse for you and everyone around you.

Being professional is about having a professional attitude. It is an attitude that says “I can help.” Asking how you can help is the best way to approach any situation in which it is not clear how to act professionally.

By always wondering what you can do to help, you will be setting yourself up to be polite, helpful, and a team player – the hallmarks of a the professional.