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Characteristics of Professionalism

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Professionalism includes a variety of personal qualities and behaviors that demonstrate commitment to effective performance in a given job. Commitment and confidence, responsibility and dependability, honesty and ethics, and appearance and professional presence are central professional characteristics.

Commitment and Confidence

Acting professionally in all interactions with clients, supervisors and co-workers starts with commitment to the company and job. This commitment evolves out of a desire to build and maintain a reputation as a professional -- to learn the ropes, to follow advice of a trusted mentor and to seek training and development for personal growth. Professionals convey confidence in their organization, role and self. Confidence instills trust and credibility with internal and external contacts.

Responsibility and Dependability

Acting responsibly and fair in all work activities is critical to professionalism. Responsible behavior has an impact across all career fields and domains. In a customer-service job, for example, responsible professionals listen to customer concerns, treat customers as valued individuals and enact measures to resolve problems. In an office administration role, a professional is well-organized, keeps an accurate schedule, communicates important dates and times to managers and workers, and ensures no steps are skipped in processing documents.

Ethics and Honesty

Ethics and professionalism go hand-in-hand. A professional not only looks and acts the part; he does so with legal, ethical and honest intent. Truth, open disclosure and sincerity are paramount to ethical professionals. A professional salesperson communicates benefits and makes recommendations to prospects with their best interest in mind. In contrast, a less honest, unprofessional seller pushes products on prospects to make money, regardless of the benefits. Many companies demonstrate a commitment to honesty with ethical codes of conduct. Professionals can make the same commitment by developing a personal code of conduct.

Appearance and Professional Presence

A number of outward characteristics communicate professionalism to people with whom you interact in your job. Proper dress, hygiene and grooming are among basic qualities of professional appearance. Company executives typically exude professionalism with suits and ties, for instance. Poise, straight posture and a friendly smile help establish professional presence, as do a number of nonverbal gestures and mannerisms. Professionals make eye contact when communicating, maintain a relaxed and approachable stance, listen actively and stay calm under pressure. A leader especially needs to show poise and calm to workers during tough situations or when making high-pressure decisions.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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