November 1, 2012

Professionalism and Judgement Must Start Early

If you are in a profession people must be able to trust that you not only have the requisite knowledge and skills, but that you also have solid judgement.

Yes, a professional is a person who possesses knowledge, skill, and experience in a field and understands standard practice, and methods but you also must instill confidence that you actually have the whole package - by your image – by what you project in your appearance, writing, speaking, and work product. People assess whether you are really a professional by observing you.

In order to be a professional you have to look like one. Becoming a professional does not start the day after graduation or the day you start your first career job. It begins from the time you choose a major and start taking classes from professors who are teaching courses in your major.

You are beginning a journey to becoming who you will be - you are starting your professional life. In the journey to your career, there is a turning point. It is the point at which you stop looking and acting like a student and start looking and acting like a professional.

Long before you apply for a career position you will be making an impression on people in your little world that you will be using as references to attest to your good character and qualities. These same people will perhaps be in a position to know about job openings and to recommend potential candidates. And at some point you are going to ask someone to hire you as an engineer. You will need to communicate your interests verbally, in writing and in an interview. And you will need good references.

It takes a village to get you to where you are going. The people in a position to help you on your way are all around you. They are the secretaries, professors, counselors, advisors, and peers who populate your world at school. They are the managers, supervisors, and co-workers who flip burgers and make fries with you in your first job.

Making a good impression on just about everyone is essential to your career health.
Everyone you meet at work, at school, and in your social life should be viewed as a potential reference or source for a job. You are interviewing for your next job every time you open your mouth, every time you attend class, every time you attend a meeting, and every time you put something in writing.

Things that make you look unprofessional:

  • Bad writing – errors in grammar, punctuation, or word usage
  • Bad manners
  • Turning in substandard work
  • Sending indecipherable emails
  • Showing up late to class
  • Showing up late to meetings
  • Falling asleep in class and in meetings
  • Checking your cell phone in class and in meetings
  • Using text messaging shorthand
  • Writing email and randomly surfing the web in class and in meetings
  • Showing up late and unprepared to class or project meetings
  • Looking unkempt anytime other than during finals week
  • Wearing clothing with inappropriate messages emblazoned on them
  • Wearing provocative clothing
All of these indiscretions show a distinct lack of good judgement. They are just a few of the things that make you look unprofessional - the list could go on. If you want to be a professional you have to look and act professional long before you get your license! Have you started looking like the professional that people will want to hire?