Professionalism is a crucial element for any job. Displaying proper behavior and an admirable work ethic will allow you to stand out from the crowd, advance your career, and build trusting relationships with the people you interact with on a day-to-day basis. Although the traits of professionalism differ depending on who you ask, these are what we consider to be the top most important factors in enhancing your professionalism.

Enthusiasm, passion, and optimism

Whether you are self-employed or work for an organization, enthusiasm is going to play a large role in your perceived professionalism. Staying positive about your work will not only lead others to enjoy working with you, but will also give the impression that you are a good fit for the job. People are motivated the most when the task is something they deeply care about, however, you are not always going to be excited about your tasks at work. When motivation is dwindling, it is important to keep a positive attitude and remember to get the work done to the best of your ability. Focusing on reaching milestones and celebrating small victories can help you stay optimistic when work seems overbearing, and doing so will allow you to accomplish two important goals. First, you will have accomplished more work than you initially thought you could, and second, others will see that you can stay professional and focused though tasks that the rest of your coworkers may struggle to achieve.

Time management and dedication

Although it may be evident, submitting work after deadlines and arriving late for meetings and work make it seem as if you do not care about the job and your coworkers’ time. Although accidents do happen, the best way to avoid missing deadlines is to plan to complete a task with time left over to come back to review your work. Doing so gives you time to look over everything at your own pace and spot mistakes that you could end up missing while in a rush. Incomplete paperwork creates a ripple effect, especially for coding, billing, and claim submission. When you are holding up your end of the bargain, it also holds up your peers. Take some time out of the day each week to compile to-do lists, and make sure you have all of the necessary documents when in meetings or calls. It is also important to return from lunch breaks and mid-day appointments at the allotted time–managing your time well and being dedicated to working efficiently shows respect for your job and those around you, and will increase your perceived professionalism on the job.

Organization and documentation

Organization of both paper and computer documents is essential to being productive at work as well as avoiding any headaches in the future. While keeping track of work related items is a more obvious necessity, many people often forget or push off maintaining their personal records. It is important to keep documentation of any medical licenses, clearances, and titles earned as well as a list of any continuing education one has received. This way it is easy to remember everything that you have accomplished in a short amount of time, minimizing room for errors and forgetfulness. You never know when it will be needed or when it will save you from forgetting some essential information.

In addition to updating personal records, it is imperative to review your CV or resume at least once per year, preferably several times a year, updating any outdated information and adding new achievements. Just like the personal records, it is best practice to keep all of these documents stored electronically in two places, such as in a certain folder on a computer and a separate thumb drive. Online documentation allows for easy access and updating, but if anything is accidentally deleted or changed you can rely on a second copy as a backup.

And, when you are self-employed, keeping track of business records is a must. Documents such as income, expenses, and taxes should be regularly filed. Be sure to note all deductible business expenses for tax filing purposes, which may be more items than you realize. To make sure you are aware of all possible deductible expenses, see our Tax Checklist for Contractors.

Leadership and respect

While it may seem obvious, what you say in the workplace has an effect on how others see you. It is important to stay positive and be courteous to others, as well as to avoid topics that could be deemed improper or controversial. While there is a time and place for foul language, usually it is not in a professional setting. The best way to stay professional is to be courteous to others and suppress questionable language. Another significant factor in workplace professionalism is to not gossip about others. Doing so instantly makes you seem unprofessional, and leaves your coworkers wondering what is said once they are not around. Lead people by example by keeping conversations businesslike.

One of the most important parts of business professionalism is to show others respect by displaying proper manners. Simply saying “please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome” can go a long way in making others feel valued and showing your respect. Being friendly and polite is an easy way to build relationships with others as well as your professionalism, and leaves a positive impression on those you interact with.