What does professional development and professionalism mean and why does it matter?
Professional development is a way for people to improve their professional knowledge, competence, and skill set. It is important because you want to grow as an individual, and people love knowing that you still want to learn.
Professionalism is a way you hold yourself in front of people in your field, in your workplace, or really anywhere. It correlates with many different elements. Some of them include character, relationship building, and conduct. All elements of professionalism mesh and overlap one another, but it’s so important to develop this skill set to be successful.
Character: Who are you?
What characteristics do you want people to associate with you as a pre-professional? I make sure people in my field know at least three to five things about me – I am honest, responsible, ambitious, humble, and courteous.
Professionals want to know that you are someone that follows through with what you say you are going to do. They want commitment. They want your honest opinion if you can’t meet a deadline. If you can’t meet a deadline, just tell them. Don’t say you will deliver when you can’t. You don’t want to disappoint.
You are responsible for yourself. You are responsible for your own ambition. Professionals want to know that you are motivated in the workplace and want to take on a task. Don’t wait to see if you’re allowed to edit a document or even go to the restroom. Just do it (and ask for forgiveness later). You have to stop waiting for things to happen, and show that you are determined to work hard. Don’t step on other people’s toes if they have already been assigned the task because that’s just not polite or respectful.
What do you want to be known for?
College is about making meaningful relationships (and working hard in school). You meet the people you meet; you become friends; and you stick with them most of the time. After graduation, you go your separate ways. Your friends might be going separate ways to a new job in a new city. Well, there is your connection for that city you might think about moving to in the future.
Networking is so important – no matter what field you are in. It’s not just about what you know these days, it’s about who you know. They don’t always have to be your best friends. The people you connect with can become your mentors. They can become the person who offers you an internship or job at the place you’ve been wanting to work at. The people you interact with are your connections to the world.
The opportunities in college are endless. If it wasn’t for meeting women in my sorority, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to intern for this amazing P.R. professional that helped me set a goal for what I wanted to do after college. If it wasn’t for joining PRSSA and Nevada Advertising Club, I wouldn’t have met the mentors I have now. If it wasn’t for meeting such different people in college, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a professional.
First appearances are everything. Not only do professionals look at how you dress to an interview or workplace, they look at your social media presence. You still want to let your personality shine through your physical and online appearance, but just be a little aware.
When you walk into an interview or to your first day on the job or a normal day on the job, you want to dress to impress, but you also want to be comfortable. What is the work culture like? Should I wear a fancy suit or dress to the interview or can I slightly dress down (ex: nice pants and a nice top)? Do your research on the work environment. If you want to rock a pants suit, you rock a pants suit. If you want to wear those new black pants and warm sweater, you strut your stuff. Be comfortable in what you are wearing at work.
What you post on social media is essentially how you are branding yourself. Think about that tweet you want to retweet or that Instagram post. Would your grandmother be fine with it? What do you think a potential employer will think if and when they see it on your feed?
Not only is professional appearance important, but so is attendance. No one wants to hire someone that is always late to the office or to a meeting. It shows that you either can’t balance your time or you can’t be dependable.
Professional development isn’t something that is scary or hard for anyone. It will help you become the educated leader you want to be in your field. Catch A Beginner’s Guide to Professional Development and Professionalism: Part II on March 19th!