15 Characteristics of Professionals

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated June 9, 2021 | Published April 3, 2020

Updated June 9, 2021

Published April 3, 2020

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach

If you are positioning yourself for a promotion at the workplace, your level of professionalism is an important consideration. Professionalism in the workplace can give you a competitive advantage over other candidates and help you build a strong reputation within your company. Understanding the different professional characteristics can help you be aware of your behavior at work. In this article, we discuss what professionalism is and explore 15 professional characteristics.

What are professional characteristics?

Professional characteristics refer to the qualities a person exemplifies in a business environment. Professionalism includes standards for behavior and the employee's ability to embody the company's values and do what their employer expects of them. Professionalism is necessary for the long-term success of any business, large or small. It ensures that customer relationships are maintained, employee interactions are positive and that a company meets its goals and objectives.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Professionalism

15 professional characteristics for the workplace

Here are 15 professional characteristics that can help you earn the respect of others and position you for promotions:

1. Professional appearance

Professionals should always strive for a professional appearance, including appropriate attire and proper hygiene and grooming. Clothing should always be clean and ironed properly. Pants, dresses, formal skirts, crisp white shirts and leather shoes are all appropriate for a professional's wardrobe.

2. Reliable

Professionals are dependable and keep their commitments. They do what they say they will do and don't overpromise. Professionals respond to colleagues and customers promptly and follow through on their commitments in a timely manner. Punctuality is a key aspect of this professional characteristic. It's always important to clarify any areas of uncertainty when dealing with customers or members of your team to ensure there are no mistaken assumptions or surprises.

3. Ethical behavior

Embodying professionalism also means to be committed to doing the right thing. Honesty, open disclosure and sincerity are all characteristics of ethical behavior. Many organizations include a commitment to ethical behavior in their code of conduct. Professionals can adopt a personal code of conduct and make the same commitment on an individual basis.

Related: Professional Code of Ethics: Definition and Examples

4. Organized

A professional keeps their workspace neat and organized so that they can easily find items when they need them. All files and paperwork should be in place and, if they have to deliver a presentation, all materials should be ready well in advance so there are no unexpected delays.

5. Accountable

Just as a professional accepts credit for having completed a task or achieved a goal, they also are accountable for their actions when they fail. They take responsibility for any mistakes that they make and take whatever steps necessary to resolve any consequences from mistakes. They are accountable and expect accountability from others.

6. Professional language

People who behave with professionalism monitor every area of their behavior, including how they talk. They minimize the use of slang and avoid using inappropriate language in the workplace. They even are conscientious of the language they use in informal settings.

7. Separates personal and professional

Professionals understand the importance of separating their personal lives from their professional lives. While professionals may experience the same challenges in their personal lives as others, they maintain a clear separation between their professional lives and workplace demeanor.

8. Positive attitude

Part of being a professional means maintaining a positive, can-do attitude while working. A positive attitude will improve a professional's overall performance and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. It will also impact the behavior and performance of others, improving employee morale in the office.

9. Emotional control

Emotional control is another key characteristic of professionalism. Professionals understand the importance of maintaining their composure and staying calm in all situations. By remaining calm, even during challenging moments, others can rely on them to be rational and of sound judgment.

10. Effective time management

An employee who knows how to manage their time well is viewed by their peers as a professional. Some characteristics of time management abilities include showing up at the office on time in the morning, being on time for meetings and letting someone in the office know if they suspect that they might be late.

11. Focused

A professional is clear about their goals and understands what they need to accomplish to achieve them. They know how to stay focused on their work to maintain their productivity. Professionals recognize the importance of maintaining focus to improve the quality of their work and be as efficient as possible.

12. Poised

Professionals should demonstrate poise, a calm and confident state of being. Being poised means maintaining a straight posture, making eye contact when communicating and helping establish a friendly and professional presence. Being poised means also staying calm during times of heightened pressure.

Related: Character Traits: Definition and Examples

13. Respectful of others

Professionals always treat others with respect. They understand that though humor is appropriate in the workplace, they should always use it with respect to others. The only time that professionals engage in conversations about other people is if they are evaluating their performance and looking for constructive ways to improve their performance in the workplace.

14. Strong communicator

A professional must have strong communication skills. This means that they not only can effectively and efficiently convey messages to others but also that they can actively listen to and understand what others are telling them. By engaging in open and constructive communication with others, professionals can collaborate more effectively and accomplish a lot.

15. Possesses soft skills

Soft skills are personal attributes that allow someone to interact effectively with others. Soft skills include things like leadership, critical thinking, teamwork and people skills. Soft skills help professionals to behave courteously when addressing colleagues and managers, use the right language when communicating and respect the opinions of others.

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