What Does it Mean to Be a Professional?

TSP • @myTSPnet


The importance of professionalism is well-known, but what does it mean to be a professional in this day and age? How can you put your best foot forward? What can you do to ensure you hire the best candidates for the job? In this post, we’ll explore what it means to be a professional — in every sense of the word.

According to Merriam-Webster, professionalism is, “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.” In this context, a professional is one who’s engaged in a learned trade or skill.

Professionalism embodies a set of standards and practices that individuals are expected to adhere to in a business environment. A professional maintains a high level of expertise and continually improves upon his or her craft. They communicate effectively and interact with others in a respectful manner.

There are five main elements that define professionalism: reliability, competence, respect, integrity, and accountability. A true professional seeks to develop each of these qualities.

Reliability is the cornerstone of professionalism. A reliable professional can be trusted to complete tasks without constant supervision, meeting deadlines and turning in high-quality work. Reliability builds team trust, as colleagues know they depend on an individual to contribute effectively to company objectives.

Professionals possess the necessary skills, knowledge, and qualifications to perform their jobs well. Competent individuals continually improve upon their expertise through ongoing training and education. They prioritize thought leadership and know how to apply knowledge to their work.

No matter the situation, respect is paramount. Treating colleagues, clients, and stakeholders with kindness is key to winning in the workplace. A respectful professional employs active listening and avoids behaviors that could be perceived as offensive or discriminatory.

Integrity is the adherence to moral and ethical principles. Professionals with integrity are trustworthy — they make decisions based on what is right rather than what is expedient. They never engage in deceitful practices, and they can admit their mistakes and take corrective action when necessary.

Professionals take responsibility for their actions. They do not blame others for their mistakes, but learn from them and strive to improve. Accountability also includes being receptive to feedback. By holding themselves accountable, professionals demonstrate a commitment to their role and to the success of their team as a whole.

Employers often decide whether or not to hire a candidate based on the first few minutes of an interview. As such, making a positive first impression is crucial. Acting professional conveys that you are serious about the role. Here’s how.

Demonstrates Competence and Reliability
By clearly and confidently articulating your skills, you show potential employers that you are capable of performing the work at hand. Employers are more likely to trust candidates who present themselves professionally.

Builds Trust and Credibility
Being honest about your qualifications and admitting when you don’t know something helps build trust with potential employers. Trust is a vital factor in the hiring process, as employers are more inclined to hire individuals they believe will be transparent.

Showcases Communication Skills
Effective communication is an important aspect of professionalism, and it can work wonders for your job search. Clear, concise, and respectful communication demonstrates your ability to effectively interact with others. It shows people you can convey ideas clearly and listen actively.

On the other side of the coin, if you are an employer seeking to hire top talent, it’s important to look for candidates that demonstrate true professionalism. Define professionalism and consider what the term means to your organization. It might include traits like punctuality, clear communication, and ethics.

Once you’ve established your desired criteria, you can create a standardized framework for evaluating candidates during the hiring process. Here are some tips for sourcing high-quality, professional talent.

Use Structured Interviews
Develop a set of questions that target the key attributes of professionalism you have identified. For example, you might ask candidates to describe situations where they respectfully handled conflicts. Structured interviews make it easier to compare candidates’ responses to these questions.

Assess Candidates’ Communication Skills
More often than not, professionalism is reflected in the way candidates communicate. During the interview process, pay close attention to how candidates express themselves, both verbally and in writing. Note their ability to listen, respond thoughtfully, and speak concisely.

Check References
To get a more complete picture of a candidate’s background and past behavior, it’s important to conduct thorough reference checks. Speak with previous employers or colleagues to gain insight into the candidate’s work ethic and ability to maintain professional relationships.

Consider Cultural Fit
Don’t overlook cultural fit when evaluating professionalism. Determine whether the candidate’s values align with your company ethos. This can be achieved through behavioral interview questions, assessments, or even trial work periods. A good cultural fit ensures that the candidate will contribute positively to your organization.

Evaluate Soft Skills
The importance of soft skills cannot be overstated. Attributes like empathy and adaptability are key elements of professional behavior. You can use scenario-based questions during interviews to assess how candidates handle interpersonal challenges. Here are some examples:

  • Describe a time where you disagreed with a colleague. How did you handle the situation?
  • Tell me about a time you received constructive criticism. How did you respond, and what steps did you take to improve?
  • Have you ever worked on a culturally diverse team?

Soft skills complement technical expertise and are essential for maintaining professionalism in virtually all work environments.

Today’s job market is enormous, and finding the right talent for your business can be a job in and of itself. So it’s important to ask yourself: what does it mean to be a professional? How do I want to come across to others in the work environment, and how can I hire quality candidates? For help with this process, consider partnering with TSP. Contact us today to see how we can connect you with professionals that are well-suited for the job at hand.