Professionalism in Challenging Times

There probably aren’t many people who would disagree that we have had a difficult couple of years.  Even with a combined will to find new or better ways to make an impact on our current circumstances, it is likely that each of us will probably be required to do more with less, get used to having less resources available to us but still be expected to make a positive impact and provide services of high quality.

That’s a big task so how can we make it happen?  How do we go about having that positive impact and how do we make the most of what we have at our disposal in both our personal and work lives?

Professionalism’s real importance is in the way that it helps us deal with the challenges we all face, bringing benefits to an individual’s day to day work and leading to increased satisfaction and success in the workplace.  The many attributes of professionalism fall into three categories – attitude, behaviour and character.  Although too many to be listed here, finding ways to make professionalism work for you in the workplace is not difficult.  It can be incremental, implementing small differences or improvements each day and then, after a while, finding that you have been an agent for change, not just for yourself but also for those around you.    

We are also all aware that in this climate we will be thinking about surviving but how to thrive is a much better question.  What will make the difference, how can we achieve the balance?  The answer lies in the relationships we develop with those around us, how we interact with the world and the impression of ourselves that we offer to those we meet.

Adopting and living by all the essential qualities of professionalism will deliver huge benefits for individuals and for organisations.  For those running businesses it will gain customers for us, keep those customers happy and ensure that they come back time and again.  For organisations it will ensure that staff are engaged and feel that there is good reason to come to work in the morning. For individuals, it can transform the way we see ourselves and are viewed by those around us.   

Whether you are looking for a professional, a tradesman, or a particular service provider, the chances are that you will first ask friends and colleagues for recommendations.  The social network discussion pages are also full of requests for trusted advisors and ‘proven’ abilities on an endless range of subjects and specialisms.  Why does this work?  Because we all believe that anyone with a decent reputation, someone who has delivered excellent service before, will do so again for us.  This person is therefore to be relied upon and will turn up when expected and give us the service we need.

Reputations are hard won but oh so easily lost.  Our actions and behaviours are our constant marketing tool so we should be very aware of the way we portray ourselves at all times, not just when we think we are being scrutinised. 

Since I published “Professionalism: the ABC for Success” I have received several requests suggesting that it would useful to have one section – “The Golden Rules” – available to put up on the wall or by the desk as a constant reminder.  So here they are as a download, just to give you the continuous edge you need to ensure that you maintain and build your hard won reputation, to ensure that you thrive in this difficult economic climate.

Professionalism is how to get ahead in any profession.

This is how:

An unavoidable truth is that people like to work with people they like so managing relationships is a critical aspect of your professionalism and, unsurprisingly, manners matter.  Thoughtfulness and a smile are incredibly powerful tools and make people want to work with you.   Small gestures also matter in our busy lives. Remembering personal details about those you work with; being responsive and returning calls and emails promptly even if it is only to say I will have to get back to you soon; acknowledging and thanking someone for a job well done; offering your support to colleagues, all make a huge difference.

If your belief in yourself and your abilities is underpinned by your competence and a commitment to CPD (continuing professional development) then you will always present yourself in an appropriate and professional way. You would also be ensuring that you build a level of respect for the professional services that you provide.

However, treating each other with respect is not just about deferring to their status.  It is also about arriving on time for a meeting, switching off your mobile phone during meetings or understanding if colleagues are under external pressures.  Earn respect for yourself by being known as someone with integrity, who is dependable, honest and trustworthy. 

One of the magic ingredients of professionalism is empathy – although we can’t see what others see when they look at us, we can see the results of our interactions with them.  Before each and every interaction try to envisage how it might feel to be on the receiving end and plan your approach and response accordingly. You should also be prepared to amend those interactions if you perceive a negative result and can establish why it happened.

Planning (in the short, medium and long term), managing your time and being well organised are critical tools for being as effective as possible.  We all have the same amount of time at our disposal each day so the trick is to make the best possible use of it and not allow it to slide away through trivia, inactivity or intrusions.  To maximize productivity and delivery, start each day with a concise ‘to-do’ list and be sure to consult it if intrusions occur.  Only you can know if the ‘new’ is important or urgent enough to replace something already on the list.  Mapping out your daily, weekly, monthly commitments will also ensure that you deliver on all your responsibilities.

Managing impressions, managing yourself and your relationships will ensure that you are noticed for all the right reasons and thereby enhance your reputation – and that’s a great place to start!

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves”

 – Thomas Edison

**  Adapted from “Professionalism: the ABC for Success”  bySusie Kay

Published by Professionalism Books at £10.99;  ISBN: 978-0-9565401-0-2 ( and Amazon)

Susie Kay is Founder of The Professionalism Group, offering advice and consultancy to individuals, students, businesses and professional institutes, focusing on the benefits of professionalism and personal effectiveness. (

She is a speaker and writer as well as offering 1:1 support and workshops.  Do get in touch if you have issues which you would like to discuss (

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