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Professionalism 101

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Published: 3 December 2020

Man in a suit

The University of Sunderland in London is an amazing place, filled with students from all sorts of backgrounds.

Some of you may have decided to change careers after years working in a different industry.

But there are plenty of you that have never worked in a professional environment.

Whether that’s because you joined us straight from school, spent most of your post-school years focusing on your family or anything else.

For those of you that have never set foot in an office before, the idea of graduating and entering the world of work can be daunting.

A question we often get asked is ‘what’s expected of me in my first job?’ We hope to answer that here and give you some tips on becoming successful in business.

What is professionalism?

The dictionary definition of professionalism talks about how you conduct yourself and your aims in a business environment.

You can think of it in more simple terms as being all in your attitude.

It can be as basic as dressing appropriately for the job, being consistent and honest (or in other words, having integrity), and staying calm, cool and collected to make sure the work gets done to a high standard.

Always be on time, be courteous and try integrating into the culture of the workplace. One major tip is to think where you’d like your career to go and act like you’re already there.

If you want to, one day, run the business ask yourself how a CEO would act and then start doing that – there’s no reason to wait until you get promoted!

It’s in the details

Professionalism is not something you do just once. It's a lifestyle change that influences how the people around you think of you.

It’s absolutely fine (and encouraged) to get along with your colleagues but avoid acting too familiar. Don’t ask them about personal things unless they volunteer the information first.

Another useful tip along these lines is to use proper language when writing emails – no OMG or LOL.

Speak up in meetings

It’s tempting to think that by staying silent you can fly under the radar and avoid looking unprofessional.

But that attitude won’t help you reach the top. Make sure you’re volunteering your opinion when relevant as long as you avoid talking too much!

Stay calm under pressure

Work can be stressful. But knowing how to cope with stress and remaining cool will help you present the air of professionalism that you want people to see.

Be the brand

Every company has a brand and chances are they’re very protective of it.

Whether you're working directly with clients or not, you represent the brand.

You need to make sure you’re acting in a way which helps people think positively about the company and avoid anything that could bring it into disrepute.

There are, of course, hundreds of other things you can do to improve your professionalism in the workplace. But these are the main ones you should focus on for now.

Take the time while you’re studying with us to think about and practice these ideas so when you graduate, you’ll be ready to wow your new bosses.

Learn more about jobs skills on the Digital Literacy Skills section of the Library website.

For more information, visit our Careers and Employability page. You can read about employability skills on our news pagesFind out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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