This article suggests some beginning ways to become more professional. But, hang on, what is professional? You might think polishing your shoes or putting on a tie makes you professional. You might also think professionals have high levels of education.

But, for us, being professional is actually an attitude. Being professional impacts on your emotional, health and financial well-being. As a professional you will live a more satisfying life when you work, rest and play.

Self-evaluation as professional behavior

To be a true professional you must know yourself, and your strengths and weaknesses inside out. Work on your weaknesses. If these are related to knowledge or qualifications, make it your business to improve them. Professionals are top in their field and they keep their knowledge up to date. You are not looking to be Batman or Wonder Woman here – nor do you need to become a university professor. Self-evaluation and having a need to improve all the time are things true professionals do.

Be true to your values

Professionals, like all of us, have values. Professionals stick to those values as they are important to them. Usually a person’s professional values come from their needs as a person and their experience. For example, if a professional turns up a meetings on time, every time, the chances are they value good timekeeping. Maybe they have spent a lot of time waiting around for meetings to start.

What are your values? If you strongly believe in something then you should do the right thing by it all the time. Not just sometimes.

Some examples of values are: cooperation, innovation, inclusiveness or sustainability. There are many more and you might find that you have quite a lot of them.

Stay focused

This is very important at work. If you let your private life get in the way of your work, you will let the team down. If you are on the phone to your partner or friends all the time, you are not focused on work and it is not a good look. That is not how pros act.

Professionals are also able to keep calm and balanced under pressure. How many times have you seen a professional freaking out, except maybe in movies? They are self-contained and able to control themselves by focusing on outcomes. What they do at home though may be another story…

Respect others

You matter, and then again so does everyone else. Just as you have values and want self-respect so do your co-workers. Listen to other people, their views and their criticisms. This needs you to have some emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is about being aware of your emotions as well as other people’s. You need empathy and understanding to act in the best way in every situation. Think about it like: putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. They will respect you as a professional if you do.

Gossiping is also something professionals would never do as they work with teams, not against them. Saying anything negative about anyone at any time will affect your reputation. As they say ‘If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything’.


Praise others

Praise motivates people. Think of a time when someone said you’d done a great job and they were impressed. How did that make you feel? Probably pretty chuffed.

You will be working with a lot of people through your life from managers and CEOs to juniors. At times one, or all, of these people will need your support and encouragement. Giving freely is the go here. You can encourage them or praise them in person. This should bring a smile to their face! Sometimes a plain old ‘Thanks’ works really well.

If someone really impresses you, you might send their manager an email or a note telling them why you think they did a good job. You could say something like, ‘I really appreciated how so-and-so fixed a problem we were having. She is a bonus and I hope she does well in the future’. It costs nothing to do this and reflects well on both of you.

Be positive

There may be one professional in the world who complains all the time, but that person is very hard to find. People who complain are not professional, simple as that. Professionals see possibilities, they are optimists and they stay upbeat.

Admit mistakes

Professionals are not perfect; they make mistakes. But they are always upfront and take the rap for it. They definitely never blame anyone else for their mistakes.

Communicate well

Pros speak and write well. Everything they put out is clear, concise and accurate. This means there is no room for misunderstanding. A sales professional will explain a service to a customer and give them the whole picture. They might offer different options too, but they will make sure the customer understands. They will also listen carefully to a customer’s needs. This situation becomes a win-win all round.

If you don’t communicate well in a work context, money goes down the drain. If you don’t communicate well with friends and family, relationships go down the drain.

Share your knowledge

Sharing shows you care. Sharing knowledge also helps you to go over it and become more familiar with it. If people ask you questions you can’t answer then you might have to brush up your skills (see self-evaluation above).

Sharing also is a way of giving back. You were lucky enough to be able to learn what you know, so sharing is like paying off a debt. The best thing about sharing your knowledge is that it can be so rewarding. It can make you feel good, because you have something special you can share.

Go the extra mile


Professionals very rarely watch the clock. In fact a lot of them work weekends or long hours. This is because they want to see the job done, and done well. Some pros would die if they didn’t get a project finished well before the deadline or within budget. You will need to be flexible then if you want to be a pro; if a project is suffering don’t ignore your home life but don’t rush out the door at 5pm.

Some final words

Everyone would like to have a positive reputation, but that reputation needs to be earned.

If you have a positive image at work, you will earn respect, earn a raise or promotion and get to work on bigger and better things. This will boost your sense of self, your well-being, others’ well-being and could make you headhunter material.

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