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The Art of Professionalism: Learning the Right Way to Get Ahead

By Steve Bannister |

Professionalism is like beauty; it's hard to define but people know it when they see it. This subtle skills can have a number of benefits. The projection of professionalism will make top notch employees want to work for you and it will help give potential clients the confidence to put their trust in you. So what exactly is professionalism?

Basically, the core of professionalism has to do more with who you are than with what you do.

Professionals tend to stand out among the crowd. They carry themselves more confidently, and are therefore more poised and purposeful in their actions. In essence, their positive attitude is showing and it doesn't take long for others to notice.

James B. Stenson who wrote Professionalism & Workplace Savvy said, "Professionalism is .. a set of internalized character strengths and values directed toward high quality service to others through one's work." Professionals know what needs to get done and they set about doing it in the most efficient, expedient way possible.

The key to becoming a professional or already improving existing professional habits revolves around change. It's a funny thing about change; it happens to us and it happens because of us. Professionals embrace change. They are therefore always adapting to their environment. The relationship between professionals and change involves People, Habits and Perceptions, otherwise known as "PeHPer" (the H is silent because habits tend to always be ingrained in a person's psyche).

When it comes to people, professionals maintain a network which works for them and not against them. They see no use in wasting time with lazy, negative thinkers. A professional's circle of influential people includes supportive relatives, friends, mentors and members of professional associations. These are the people from which professionals learn. Professionals consciously choose a network of people who have redeeming characteristic strengths and values.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle. Some habits are essential for our survival and other habits are detrimental to our health. Imagine if everyday meant relearning how to take a shower, eat breakfast and commute to work! These particular habits are essential for our well-being.

On the other hand, we tend to take the concept of habit-forming a little too far. Bad habits reveal themselves in many forms such as procrastination, complaining and laziness. Professionals are always aware of their bad habits and they continually make efforts to lessen their negative effects. It takes approximately four to six weeks either to gain a good habit or get rid of a bad habit. This process involves accessing the right knowledge base, honing new skills or maintaining essential skills and sustaining a desire.

It takes an effort for professionals to stay on top of their game and being fully informed in their area of expertise is one way to stay there. Professionals are always mindful of the power of knowledge.

No matter how confident a professional may appear to be, they are always practicing their hard and soft skills. As well, professionals are constantly looking for the next skill set which just might help them move up the corporate ladder.

Professionals make sure that on top of maintaining a current knowledge base and keeping their skills sharpened, they also keep the fire within fully stoked. They do this by always thinking in terms of " … as if …".

For example, when new employees act "as if" they already have a few years of work experience (secure in what they know but not cocky), then they are more likely to be treated that way. They are also more likely to be given more responsibility and achieve success more quickly than others.

As simple as it may sound, professionals are adamant in always maintaining a positive attitude. They will continuously perceive the glass as being half full as apposed to half empty. Professionals know that a positive attitude keeps their energy up as well the energy of people around them. Similarly, bosses know that promoting a positive employee will greatly benefit the company.

The following quote by Gandhi best describes the art of professionalism:
"You must be the change which you wish to see in the world."

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