Professionalism is not passe. I am not sure who started this rumor, but that person is wrong. The business community still regards appropriate engagement in conversation and the written word to matter.
- If you're applying for a job and the phone number you put on your resume is not the right number, please correct. How do you expect to be reached? Just via email? Sometimes that's not enough. Update your resume to reflect how you want to be contacted and remove any information that is wrong.
- When you work for an organization, it's not smart to share with others why you hate your boss. It's not smart to do that at work and it's really not smart to do that online. Facebook and Twitter do not need to know that your boss's bad habit of biting his/her nails is leading you to look for another job. They don't care if you're working 60 hours a week but only being paid for 40. They don't care that Swedish Fish have been replaced in the vending machine with low-fat Fig Newtons. Burning a bridge is never a wise, professional decision, especially one that's now in annals of the Internet for all of eternity.
- A meeting time is just that - a time. When you say that you will meet someone at 3:00, that does not mean 3:15. It actually means 2:50. And don't laugh it off once you arrive. Apologize. The occasional traffic issue will happen and is completely understandable; that's the exception, not the rule. Professionally, look to show your appointment you care by respecting their time.
- If you use your own cell phone number for work purposes or as you search for a new role, please get rid of the "please enjoy the music while your party is being reached" feature. Let the phone just ring, for Pete's sake. I don't want to hear a scene from Scarface, music from Tupac as you voice-over a declaration that you know he's still alive or your child saying "Wait for Daddy" over and over again. This is your business line; treat it as such.
This is not a rant (alright, maybe a little) but rather a reminder to respect yourself enough to know how to engage and behave as a professional. I went to college a while ago. I did not have a class that taught me how to be professional when I left college. I was the guy who wore PJ's to class on occasion, challenged classmates to name the full cast of Love Boat (both character and real names) while instruction was going on and left a drool ring on most of the notebooks I had for class. I needed to be more professional than that once I left college, and I knew it!
Do we know that today? This is not about age. It's about consideration. Entitlement has swept through our culture like wildfire. We expect others to acquiesce to us. "This is how I am" is a mantra of freedom that we embrace. The problem is that when you have to collaborate with others and rely on others, you cannot always just be who you are.
It may be your right to answer a phone saying "'Sup," but is that the way you want to be known? Is that the way you want your company to be known? Let me say that the answer may be yes. But what I do know is that we don't ask first how what we do will reflect the company; we hope that it won't be a big deal as we think about it afterwards. Professionalism takes forethought.
The workplace is not home. You have to think about how what you do will impact others and what message it will give about the organization. And if you are not working, your potential employer is thinking about how you will fit within the culture. Your entitled perspective, though your right, might keep you from being hired. Humility is a lost art in the workplace and it's one we should display.
Think about your demeanor. Think about your understanding of professionalism. What do you know versus what do you show? Are they the same?
Our companies are desperately wanting those who will set the tone for engagement. It is about skill sets. It is about education. It is about abilities. It is, also, about professionalism. We can present all of what the company has and knows in a broader way if we know how to appeal to a broader audience. Professionalism takes knowledge, thought and practice. It's just like how I worked on knowing the full cast (both character and real names) for Eight is Enough. Ah, college...