Professionalism is the character or behaviour expected of a professional in their chosen field. Your image and personal skills are combined to create your character which when examined at the workplace shows your level of professionalism. One of the first things people notice about you is your personal image. The personal image includes your appearance, grooming, posture, personal habits, and grammar and language. What kind of impression do you make on people? Do you come to work neat and ready to work? Do your posture and appearance convey pride, competence, and professionalism? How about your language and grammar, do you separate street talk from proper English? These are what you need to know and practice if you want to be held to a high standard of respect.

Appearance and grooming

Your image is very important to your clients. Clients need to have confidence in you. They want assurance that people catering to them are competent and professional. How would you feel if your lawyer, teacher or doctor had a ripped shirt, visible underwear and dirty nails? Wouldn’t you assume that their unprofessional appearance would reflect a lack of competence in their work? As a professional, when you look good, you feel good, and your confidence is elevated. It builds up your self-esteem. You become confident, which is an attitude that shows when you meet with a client. Clients want always desire to have a confident professional assist them with their needs. Most employers have a written dress code. This is always outlined when you are been hired. It is important that you abide by the dress code. This may vary from department to department. If you do not have a dress code or a uniform, select clothing that is appropriate for your job. Clothes should be clean, pressed and fit properly. Avoid clothing that is too short, too tight or too revealing. Keep makeup and jewellery to a minimum. Facial hair should be groomed and avoid wearing heavy perfume. Avoid extravagant hairstyles and hair colours. Remember that the workplace is not where you go show the latest fashion trends. Your clothing and accessories should support getting your work done effectively and safely. Save your party wear, evening wear, shorts, leggings, crop tops, spaghetti strap dresses and see-through fabrics for after hours. Even if your employer allows casual days, still be professional. If you are approached about wearing something inappropriate, simply apologize and change.

Dress Code over time

Based on history, the dress code of tomorrow may be different from those of today. But dress codes tend to be more conservative, trailing well behind societal trends. Depending on where you work, dress code requirements may limit opportunities for expressing your individuality. Some people might want to show their tattoos, piercing and various hairstyles, but only do so if your employer allows it. Remember that when you are at work, it is all about the client and not you. If you serve older clients, they might not be so receptive to the new fashion trends that you might display. Do not get upset with them, fashion trends were more conservative then and we have to remember that the client is the reason why you are here. When they get to know you, they will see you as an expert and your appearance might not be a factor but for your initial impression, you have to show your professional image.

Personal Habits

Personal habits are also part of your image and sometimes they are annoying or troublesome to those around you. For example, chewing gum loudly in a meeting or playing childish pranks on your co-workers. Avoid eating or drinking in the view of clients. Do not interrupt people when they are talking and avoid completing sentences for someone else. This can be very annoying and can make you look like an insensitive person.

Smoking has been banned in most workplaces. If an employee must smoke, he or she can step outside the building. If you must smoke, make sure to abide by your company’s smoking designated areas. Ensure that your smoke break does not take too much of your time. It is very hard to look professional when you are constantly smelling smoke or other recreational drugs.

Language and Grammar

The language you use can also reflect personal habits that others find annoying. Never refer to co-workers or clients with names such as honey, sweetie pie, babe, boo or any name that sounds informal. Your client is not your friend nor are they your significant partner. They are there for business. Any language that demeans any racial and cultural group members is unprofessional. Always remember that your co-workers and clients are professionals, so speak with professionalism and avoid language you use at home or on the streets. Telling jokes in poor taste is not a good idea even on breaks. Certain conversations can create an uncomfortable work environment for others.

Poor grammar is a warning signal, indicating a lack of education and refinement. Avoid grammatical errors like, “We was there”, “Me and Him” or “I see you do that.” These errors have become increasingly popular but they are unprofessional. Pick the company you associate with as poor grammar is learned. If people around you use poor grammar, there is a possibility that you will do the same without even realizing it. If your grammar is weak, work towards improving it. Remember the saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression”, but in professional work, each time you stand before management and clients, you have to always make a good impression.


Professionalism in the workplace is not a goal that is hard to achieve. Focusing on our appearance, speech and habits will take help us look, feel and appear professional. An employee may be good at what they do and yet, be despised in his/her workplace or even fired for a lack of professionalism. Read our post on workplace expectations to get more insights on how to appear professional at your job.

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