Throughout our working lives, most of us will have many different jobs, each requiring a different level or set of skills. No matter the industry – from customer service to an office job to construction and the trades – all of these jobs have one thing in common: in order to succeed and move ahead, you need to demonstrate professionalism. Professionalism does not mean wearing a suit or carrying a briefcase; rather, it means conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence. It means communicating effectively and appropriately and always finding a way to be productive.

As today’s labor market becomes more and more competitive, job seekers will need to continually find ways to stand out from the crowd. There are few things an employer values more than employees who carry out their duties in a professional manner. Professionalism isn’t one thing; it’s a combination of qualities. A professional employee arrives on time for work and manages time effectively. Professional workers take responsibility for their own behavior and work effectively with others. High quality work standards, honesty, and integrity are also part of the package. Professional employees look clean and neat and dress appropriately for the job. Communicating effectively and appropriately for the workplace is also an essential part of professionalism.

Regardless of the job or industry, professionalism is easy to spot. On a construction site or in a trade, a professional worker will work hard and manage time effectively, including arriving and returning on time from breaks. A professional worker in a customer service setting will speak clearly and politely to customers and colleagues and have a neat and clean appearance. In an office setting, an employee with professionalism will work productively with others and strive for a high standard and constant improvement. Professionalism may look slightly different in various settings, but the core elements are always the same – and give young employees an edge as they begin their careers.

Professionalism, in and of itself, is not one skill but the blending and integration of a variety of skills. When professionalism is demonstrated, it tends to be thought of as the entire package. Professionalism is not an easy skill to develop since it is the make-up of many different skills all “mushed” together and tends to take years of experience to perfect. More than any of the other soft skills covered in this publication, professionalism is the one that employers (and others) say they “know it when they see it.” Recognizing that there is a population of young people who may struggle with one or more of the individual skills that make up professionalism, it is important to provide a safe environment for all youth who are determined to practice and reinforce these skills. Young people need an environment where they feel safe enough to make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, and have opportunities (and the encouragement) to try again. It is by offering a safe environment along with encouragement that all youth can succeed and develop their own personal style of professionalism.

Source: DOL: