Simple Definition of Professionalism

Updated February 21, 2017

When working in your work environment, you must always remember to project an image of professionalism. This will help you earn the respect of your peers, your clients and your superiors. Some people may believe that professionalism is limited to your behaviour, but exuding professionalism includes your manner of dress and other basics. Adhering to professional standards is relatively simple and may leave a distinct impression on your coworkers.


Dressing well can have a positive effect on your image, and will help people associate you with a professional demeanour. Professional dress depends on the work environment---while some workplaces encourage casual clothing, others demand more traditional outfits of suits and ties.

With that in mind, dressing professionally includes dressing in a manner that is appropriate for your workplace. I also includes, however, dressing well for clients and superiors---if you are meeting with a client, for example, you should wear a conservative, traditional outfit, like a light business suit. This demonstrates that you take your work and your client seriously.


Professionals are courteous and mindful of others in conversation. They listen well, display compassion and refrain from passing judgment. They also respect boundaries---professional behaviour dictates that people do not pry into the lives and private business of others. You should also be careful to address people with the proper amount of respect. For example, you should refer to someone by "Mr.," "Mrs." or "Ms." with the last nameuntil you are given permission to address them otherwise.


Professional behaviour does not mandate complete restraint---as a professional, you should also be enthusiastic about your work. You should take pride in what you do, without allowing mistakes. Volunteer for assignments, learn as much as you can about your responsibilities and offer help to coworkers who need it. Displaying pride and a willingness to learn is a hallmark of professional behaviour.


Professionals respect not only their coworkers, but themselves, as well. Part of this is in dress, but just as important is cleanliness and organisation. You demonstrate respect for yourself and your own needs when you keep a tidy workspace---a cluttered, messy workspace is indicative of an unprofessional. Similarly, you should take care of your personal appearance. Go to work clean and shaven, with your teeth brushed and your hair combed.


A professional is always on time for her appointments. Clients, supervisors and even coworkers should never be kept waiting, especially if it is avoidable. By missing appointments and running late, you disrespect someone else's time and demonstrate that you are unreliable---two things indicative of an unprofessional person.

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About the Author

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.