Professionalism is a desirable attribute that almost everybody would love to be labelled with. And for good reason – being professional has its perks.
In fact, it is almost crucial to your success as a businessperson.
If you work on yourself and exhibit professionalism, marketing becomes easy. People will look for you, not you looking for them. It’s as simple as that.
My organisation, TRW Consult, has done quite a lot of work in the past, and honestly, 95 per cent of our clients have come through referrals. Not by marketing, calls, et cetera, but by people who recognise that these people are professionals in their field.
That is why we prize professionalism dearly. It brings many favourable opportunities our way.
When people see you as a professional, they’ll come right to your doorstep.
Take the story of King Solomon for instance – a great, renowned man of wisdom who was visited by multiple dignitaries eager to learn from him, including fellow monarchs. Not less the Queen of Sheba. What is wisdom but the application of knowledge – knowledge of life views? If you have the wisdom to solve problems in life, then people will look for you.
But you have to work on yourself.
So in this article, we’ll look at exactly what you need to do to become a better professional.
Definition of Professionalism
What exactly is professionalism?
Oxford Reference defines it as
“the combination of qualities and conduct regarded as essential to professional practice. These include knowledge, skills, relevant competence, behavioural qualities, and values of honesty, integrity, ethical probity, and capability of working well with patients or clients, colleagues, and representatives of the public.”
The Oxford Learners’ Dictionary on its own part calls it
“the high standard that you expect from a person who is well trained in a particular job”
To the Cambridge Dictionary, it is
“the combination of all the qualities that are connected with trained and skilled people”
Your professionalism brings you prestige. It is a way to place yourself on a pedestal that makes you visible. Getting up there, however, actually requires conscious effort on your own part.
How to Be a Better Professional
I have grouped what you need to do into two, which I’ll call intrinsic and extrinsic factors (or to-dos).
Your personal bearing includes your thoughtfulness. How much thought do you apply into what you do?
If you think things through, you make life easier both for yourself and others. If you don’t, you make life tougher. Thinking things through allows you to organise yourself better.
So, to start the journey towards becoming a better professional you must first ask yourself: How much thought do I put into my work and to myself?
You’re called a writer, an editor, a social media specialist, an accountant, et cetera. But how much thought do you apply to that calling? How often do you sit and plan yourself adequately? When you rush into things recklessly and without calculation, you leave a lot half-done – or end up wasting so much time without actually gaining meaningful ground.
Thoughtfulness also helps you prioritise your activities. You are able to plan yourself and have a schedule – perhaps on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, or even for the year.
When you do so, you are able to achieve more.
Once you can prioritise and adhere strictly to it, that’s time management. Time management and optimisation is a useful tool for any professional.
How do you dress? When people see you, will they think you are dressed like a professional?
There’s a way accountants look, for instance. You are often able to see them and say, “This is an accountant.”
Your personal carriage matters because people tend to profile you with a single glance, particularly when they are meeting you for the first time. And that profiling often influences the rest of their relationship with you.
Besides your dressing, how do you comport yourself?
What can people observe from the way you speak – both in public and privately?
These are things that define you, that allow people to categorise you.
Additionally, you must be self-aware if you are to be termed a professional. You need to ask yourself key questions about your own behaviour. If you are a writer, do you speak or act like a writer? What are the things you do or don’t do that writers should or shouldn’t be doing? If you are an accountant, do you talk and think like an accountant?
Personal grooming also comes in. Do you have body odour, for instance? Are you aware of whether you have body odour or not? Some, due to the nature of their work, end up wearing the same set of clothes for days. It would be awful if you were meeting a client, and then the first thing they’d perceive is the unpleasant smell oozing from your clothes.
Personal conduct at work
What is your conduct like at your workplace? How do you relate with your clients or colleagues? When people see you, does it tally with what you claim to be?
You need to be able to answer these questions positively. And if you cannot, then you know what to start working on.
Moreover, what kinds of things do you post on social media? Does your posting emphasise your professionalism or water it down?
Your personal conduct at work also relates to how you approach tasks. To be a better professional, you must be resourceful.
When faced with a task, you need to examine and study all possible options rather than just pick one and not give a thought to the others. That certainly doesn’t help you grow – as an individual or as a professional.
When you consider other options you are able to gain knowledge from various aspects, and when you speak, people consider you experienced and capable at what you do.
You equally need to structure yourself, so that you will not work based on feelings. As humans, we are feeling beings, and at some point some people take a look at a piece of work, put it down and say “No, I don’t feel like doing this.”
You need to be able to perform that task despite your feelings to the contrary, by virtue of it having been fitted into your timetable. You need to structure it into your own psyche that tasks of that nature need to be accomplished, and that there is no point in pushing them away simply because you do not feel like doing them.
You will not always feel like working, but understanding that work is meant to be done and structuring yourself accordingly will make you come across as a professional.
If you are a feeling worker, you are not a professional. But if you are structured in the way you work, then that is tilting towards professionalism.
So, ask yourself: Do you stop working at times simply because you don’t feel like it? Or do you approach work in a structured manner?
If you have superiors at your workplace, what do they think about how you work? Are you a superior’s delight or a superior’s nightmare?
Are you the type who often sees work and prays it doesn’t come to your table? Or are you the type who understands that work is necessary and so rises up to the challenge?
The extrinsic factors include the values that stem from the people around you or from your workplace environment.
What is the ethos of your workplace? Every workplace, office or organisation has its own values, philosophies and ideals. How much do you know of these values of your existing organisation? And what are your own values as a person in business?
How much do you comply with them and what is the level of your compliance?
As a professional in your field, you need to be identifiable as a person of proper conduct as well as capacity.
The Journey is Yours to Make
These are steps you have to take by yourself. You are not forced to become nor are you made a professional. It is a process you have to undergo by yourself with your eagerness to thrive as your only motivator.
You go through the process by structuring yourself accordingly. No one will take you by the hand and walk you there.
Plus, it is a ladder and you have to take it rung by rung. Like a school exam, you have to do well in a particular stage before you are certified to advance to the next.
And of course the higher you go the greater the challenges.
You are your own manager.