For most students in college, the concept of becoming a professional is not something that is obtainable until one has graduated. This is because the concept of professionalism is encompassed by having specialized knowledge, by having fair values and integrity and being accountable and competent. Although this is not to say that college students do not possess these attributes by any means, but that there are some practices that students can use to build these professional habits before graduating. Here are five primary areas that you can use to improve your professional persona.
Always Communicate As Clearly As Possible
When it comes to completing group projects, or asking for an extension on a paper, if you take responsibility and act ahead of time, this illustrates that you work like a professional and understand the consequences of irresponsibility. Unfortunately, if you do submit projects late and ask for extensions only hours before the homework is due, then this is a sign of unprofessionalism. Take the time to clearly communicate with yourself, with your professors, and with your peers about your intentions. Once you get into the field of your choice, a non-professional take on will not be tolerated.
Follow Through On Your Words
This goes with the above point, clearly communicating. When you say that you will complete an action, whether that be a section of a term paper or a cleanup duty at work, if you choose to not follow through without a valid and acceptable reason, you create distrust among your peers. Practice following through on what you say to others as this will only bring you to respect outside of college. When your fellow employees, managers, and bosses know that they can trust your word and that you are reliable, because you follow through on your words, you become a true professional.
Be Humble In Your Abilities
A great professional will be able to recognize when they do not have the knowledge needed to complete a job. Rather than being afraid of looking unworthy, a professional speaks up and asks about what they lack. Whether this is asking how a mistake can be rectified, asking for instruction, or flat out saying that they are not comfortable with the task at hand because they do not know how to go about it. A professional seeks out enlightenment and learning, rather than shutting down at the lack of knowledge and expertise.
Learn to Accept Criticism
Although criticism can be difficult to bear at times, it is important that you practice accepting it humbly. When one doesn't know how to accept criticism, it can be very easy to get into an argumentative fight which does not propel anything forward. Rather, take in the criticism and instead of going with the first defensive thought that pops into your head, take the time to truly reflect on what was said and how it was meant to help. Choose to not react quickly nor negatively and new avenues of perspective will be opened up to you. This allows you to mature in your thought process and become someone who can be in stressful situations without breaking professional conduct.
Seek Mentorship and Knowledge
Choose to seek out mentorship from those who inspire you. In doing so, you unlock the capacity to take on new knowledge, and if you are acquiring it from someone who has professional experience, you will learn about professionalism along the way. Although it may be cliche to say, knowledge is indeed very powerful.
Beyond these five areas, if you are a college student wanting to work on your professionalism, choose to become organized and maintain a clean and professional look both in person and online. Otherwise, make sure you use critical thinking to find solutions, watch what you say, and of course, always proofread your e-mails.