Professionalism is a valued quality that has friendly, polity and business-like characteristics and is a necessary trait that characterizes or makes a professional person. Being a professional does not meaning wearing a suit and tie, rather, it’s about how you conduct yourself, including how you dress, how you carry yourself, your attitude, and how you interact with others.

Why is it important?  Professionals:

* Have more credibility
* Have a more comfortable experience
Encompass a strong sense of ethics
Are able to focus on their position and avoid unnecessary distraction
* Are perceived by others as competent and valuable


Use the following list of characteristics as a guide to set standards for yourself. You may also use the list below to self-assess your professionalism in your position.

Professionalism means that you:



Apply your knowledge and skills in a manner that demonstrates your competencies.

Practice critical thinking and problem solving based on what you know from past experiences and education.


Exercise your values. Values can be defined as broad preferences concerning appropriate courses of action or outcomes.


Maintain your poise when facing a difficult situation. For example, if someone treats your poorly, you should exercise your values and not resort to the same type of behavior. Don’t compromise your values, and do the right thing, even when it means taking a harder road.

Conduct ethical practices. Ethics are behaviours which direct people's actions so as to meet the standards our values set for us


Your position does not set your values, but rather sets behavioural standards for each your performance. As a student, you are expected to act in accordance with your position’s behavioural standards. You may however find yourself in situations which are unfamiliar or uncomfortable for you, where "laws" do not provide sufficient guidance.

When making decisions, you may have to choose between two or more alternatives. In some of these cases, the choice is difficult because no matter which alternative is selected, one or more of our values are subordinated. Your values and those of your supervisor may not always coincide. These cases are known as ethical dilemmas. How you manage dilemmas can have a significant impact on your success within an organization. Some tips:

Step 1:
Clearly identify and define the problem including whether it is consistent with  policies and procedures, and whether this is an issue governed by existing laws or regulations.

Step 2:
Identify alternative solutions to the problem. Consider the legality of these and whether they are consistent with what the organization states as a value and your idea of what is "right" or "fair."

Step 3:
Evaluate the alternatives you have identified considering their congruence with your values, the organization's values and policies, and existing laws and regulations.

Step 4:
Implement the selected solution.

Step 5:
Assess the outcome, is the situation resolved or have new issues arisen?

Maintain high standards of performance.


Put in honest hours and complete high-quality work, for example, don’t talk to your friends on the phone or in person during your work hours.

Communicate appropriately.


Consider your audience’s needs when communicating, whether in person, on the phone, or via written communication such as email. Use formal language when required. Be polite and well-spoken whether you're interacting with others in your experience.


Maintain etiquette which  is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group (Wikipedia, 2011)

Pay attention to the norms in your environment.

Are Productive.


Being ready to work when you arrive, take initiative, exceed expectations, ensure core tasks are the foundation of your work versus focusing only on ‘glitzy’ tasks’.

Have a good attitude.

Manage your behavior on the experience in a manner that meets the expectations of your supervisor. Your demeanor should exude confidence but not cockiness. Keep your body-language in mind as it impacts your effective communication.

Are reliable.


Arrive punctually and for your scheduled work dates. As you were hired for this position, you are being counted on for getting the work done. Responding to people promptly and following through on promises in a timely manner is important.

Have a professional appearance.


A professional is neat in appearance. Ensure you are dressed in attire that is appropriate to the environment and have good hygiene. Don’t use excessive fragrances.

Are accountable.


You are accountable for your actions and get your work completed on time. If you make a mistake, own up to it and try to fix it if possible and take responsibility and work to resolve the issue. Don't try to place the blame.

Self-Regulate your performance and practice continual improvement.


For example, if a client is acting irrationally, instead of getting upset or angry in return, you can exhibit true professionalism by maintaining a calm, business-like demeanor, and by doing everything that you can to make the situation right. Another example is that you are honest about your skills gaps and work to fill them.