Professionalism 101

You’ve probably heard the word “professionalism” thrown out in many different contexts, but what does acting professional actually entail? Professionalism spans far beyond dressing well or having an impressive resume. Rather, the way you act in your academic, extracurricular, and professional life can have far-reaching impacts on those around you and your own future. Breaking down professionalism into the categories of communication, character, and conduct can help to pinpoint specific actions you can take to up your professionalism game.


Communication: Often, you make your first impression over the phone or email. People notice the way you communicate, so make sure to take advantage of your opportunity to impress!

  • Make sure you have a clear voicemail message and that your voicemail box is not full
  • When you do miss a call, make an effort call back within the day
  • Your email address should be simple and contain some form of your name; if it looks anything like or, you should probably reconsider
  • While you may have friendly relationships with professors or others in your network, it’s still important to communicate maturely, leaving out slang and texting language
  • Finish your emails cleanly and consistently, with a pre-set email signature

Character: Are you someone that others want to be around? Can your peers and supervisors count on you?  While character is a broad category, it all comes down to respect.

  • Hold yourself accountable, and admit mistakes when necessary
  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Ask for feedback and accept criticism gracefully
  • Be known as someone who encourages others
  • Be honest and trustworthy

Conduct: The way you conduct yourself reveals worlds about your maturity, capability, and values. Below are a few basics, but you’ll be the best judge of if the way you act presents the best version of yourself.

  • Dedicate undivided attention to the task or person at hand; I’ll say it right now: multitasking is a bit of a myth
  • Be punctual; when something comes up, make sure to let those know who will be waiting for you. As Drake said, “Better late than never, but never late is better.”
  • Avoid gossip and petty complaining
  • Do what you say you will and follow through with your commitments
  • Ask for help when needed

Whether you’re after an internship, working in a group project, or just trying to get to know your professors, holding yourself to high standards will help you reach your goals. If you’d like more advice on how to be the best professional you, the Center for Career Development is here for you! Come in for a career coaching appointment for advice on anything from networking to applying to grad school.

By Arianna Dines
Arianna Dines