20 Tips for Being More Professional at Work

Updated January 31, 2023

Two people are seen shaking hands during a meeting taking place in a boardroom.

Being professional means acting in a way that promotes positive workplace interactions, conforms to the organization's standards and demonstrates expertise in your role. By acting professionally at work, you can develop better relationships, perform more effectively and possibly move up in your career.

In this article, we cover why it's important to be more professional and provide 20 tips on how you can do so.

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Why is it important to be more professional?

Being more professional can come with some important benefits, such as:

  • Earning more responsibility at work

  • Being treated better at work

  • Having more freedom at your job

  • Gaining more opportunities for advancement

  • Obtaining better job security

  • Earning better references from previous employers

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20 tips for how to be more professional

To be more professional at work, here are 21 tips you can use:

1. Arrive on time

Arriving on time displays time management, which can show you're a reliable employee. Whenever you have to be at a meeting, for instance, give yourself plenty of time to get there. Doing so shows that you value everyone's time, are well-organized and care about the meeting.

2. Manage your time

Managing your time goes beyond being punctual. If you have a deadline for a project, or if you agree to send a letter by a certain time, it's important that you complete the task by then. Learning time management skills is an effective way to not only be more professional, but to help you reduce stress from work.

Read more: 20 Time Management Tips for Professionals

3. Be dependable

A professional is someone who coworkers can rely on to get their work done accurately and on time. When assigned a task at work, or when you agree to do something, be sure you follow through with it.

4. Improve communication

Communicating is key for any professional. Work on your ability to communicate in person, over the phone, through email and over chat messages. Maintain a professional tone whenever you are interacting with a colleague, regardless of your relationship with them. Doing so will help to establish your reputation as a professional, develop professional relationships and ensure you're exchanging information effectively.

5. Change your wardrobe

If you want others to see you as a professional, proper dress is key. What sort of attire you need will depend on your specific workplace. For example, men at an office job may need a suit, while a manager at a fast-food restaurant may just need a shirt with a collar.

A woman who is CEO may need a suit and high heels, while a grade-school teacher can dress in a nice pair of pants, a blouse and more comfortable shoes. Whatever the dress code, ensure your clothes are clean, wrinkle-free and properly worn.

6. Come prepared

Preparation is another key aspect of professionalism. When you arrive at a meeting, you want to have all the necessary materials and equipment. Doing so shows that you took the time to prepare before the meeting and that you care about how it runs. In addition, when you're prepared, you'll be better able to participate in the meeting and make a stronger impression.

7. Project confidence

Acting with self-assurance can also make you appear more professional. Even if you don't feel confident on the inside, projecting outward confidence can help people find you more open and trustworthy.

8. Keep a positive attitude

Most offices appreciate a positive attitude. Professionals who can maintain a good attitude will have a positive impact on those around them. If you keep this positive attitude even when times are challenging, your coworkers may start to view you as a leader.

9. Be honest

By remaining honest at all times, you'll develop trust with those around you and better working relationships. For example, if you know you will be late submitting something, let your coworkers know as early as possible so that they can prepare.

10. Maintain ethics

Professionals should maintain ethical standards. For example, if your manager asks you to do something that would help the company but negatively impact the customer, you should avoid doing this. A business professional holds to their ethics even when it is challenging.

Related: A Complete Guide to Integrity in the Workplace

11. Seek feedback

To grow as a professional, feedback is necessary. A professional will not only accept given feedback, but they will actively seek it out. They will schedule time with their supervisors for performance evaluations and ask their customers or clients for direct feedback and view this feedback as an opportunity to improve.

12. Practice empathy

Empathy is an important part of being a professional. Professionals need to recognize when someone else might be facing challenges, whether because of a missed deadline or another difficulty in the workplace.

13. Take on leadership responsibilities

Professionals also seek leadership opportunities. If an opportunity arises for you to take on more responsibility, the professional thing to do is accept rather than leave the work to someone else. Doing so will garner more respect around the office and perhaps even help you advance in your career.

14. Avoid office gossip

Gossip is the practice of discussing other people, like coworkers, and often involves a casual, non-work-related conversation with details that may not be true. Keep work conversations professional and appropriate at all times, as gossip can harm productivity for the business and the employee being talked about.

15. Continue your education

A professional is always looking for new ways to grow their knowledge or improve their skills. During your free time, look for ways to further your education, whether it's taking courses, receiving certifications or attending workshops.

16. Share your knowledge

A professional not only works to gather new knowledge but to share it with others. If someone in your office doesn't know something that you do, take the time to explain it to them. Freely passing around knowledge will improve the business, and your coworkers will likely appreciate the help.

17. Modify your online persona

Your online persona also impacts whether others view you as a professional. There are a few simple ways to appear more professional online.

For instance, consider going through your social media accounts and either making them private or only posting content that is suitable for the workplace. After that, make sure your email address has a professional signature at the bottom. Finally, if you have a website, be sure it is professionally done. Your website, along with your emails and social media, are a reflection of you, so be sure they look professional at all times.

18. Promote your accomplishments with humility

While you should be proud of your workplace accomplishments, you want to share them with your colleagues in a manner that's professional and humble. If you have a personal website, you should list your achievements there. You could also share them on social media with a brief description of the accomplishment. Be mindful of how you discuss the achievement so you appear proud without being boastful.

19. Be willing to take some risks

Risks are inherent when you have a job. Even if the risks are small, eventually you will have to take a chance on something. Professionals are able to analyze the risk and decide when to proceed. Work on being less indecisive to appear more professional.

20. Have a sense of humor

A sense of humor is a positive element in the workplace since it can promote friendly interactions and teamwork. Have fun at work and with your coworkers, as long as it doesn't interfere with your productivity.

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