Book Smarts, Street Smarts . . . and Professionalism Smarts?

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We often find that a number of our clients, although intelligent and well-intentioned, end up in difficult predicaments at work due to a lapse in judgment or unprofessional behavior. Why do such smart individuals make these mistakes? Is professionalism something that should be taught in schools?

According to the dismal findings of the 2013 Professionalism in the Workplace Study released by The Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, it looks like professionalism ought to be taught in schools.

The study surveyed around 400 human resource professionals about their experiences recruiting and hiring recent college graduates in a variety of industries. Almost half of respondents said that less than 50% of new employees exhibit professionalism in their first year. Technology use appears to be one of the biggest issues, with 50% of respondents reporting an increase in IT etiquette problems.

Here are a few tips to improve your professionalism:

Take initiative to understand and meet your manager’s expectations
Don’t expect your manager to adjust to your work style or spell out his or her expectations. You need to take initiative to understand your boss’s style and expectations and adjust. That might mean outright asking your boss what they want, take initiative on projects without being asked, and show your manager that you are dependable and can be counted on to complete tasks.

Appearances matter
It’s not only important to pay attention to the way you dress, but also what kind of employee you present yourself as. Are you punctual and dependable? Are you personable and work well with others? Simple things like making sure you are well-groomed, on time, and respectful to others can go a long way.

Never send an email when upset or after 7 PM
Conflicts due to miscommunication are one of the most vexing problems in the workplace. Employees often do not realize that their emails can be interpreted in more than one way, and sometimes the resulting assumptions others make are completely wrong. A good rule of thumb is to avoid sending any emails when upset or after a long day of work. You are just not in the frame of mind to draft a good email, and your risk of being misinterpreted increases significantly.