Professional Employees: What Are They? How Do I Become One?

What it inferred by the word “professional”?  Does it mean to dress in boring, conservative attire when interviewing or going to work? Does it mean to be on your best behavior, to act mature and all businesslike?

According to Merriam-Webster, professional means this: (1) to be characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession or (2) exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.

According to Merriam-Webster, professional means this: (1) to be characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession or (2) exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.

So, being professional refers to the projection of a businesslike manner, adhering to both the technical and ethical standards of a given position, and producing behavior that reveals a mindful consideration of others. Now we know. However, based on my experiences in the staffing industry, many job-seekers tend not to fully understand all that is implied by this word - professional.

Below is a breakdown of what it might mean when someone calls a person a true professional, a job a professional position, or a staffing company a professional placement agency.

Areas of consideration are categorized below with questions to ponder as you consider your current level of professionalism and seek to move forward in a successful career:


Blogs about  professional dress code , first impressions, overall appearance and behavior for job interviews are abundant and can provide you with much insight. 

Blogs about professional dress code, first impressions, overall appearance and behavior for job interviews are abundant and can provide you with much insight. 

In part, projecting a businesslike manner pertains to one's choice of makeup, clothing, shoes, and jewelry, your demeanor, smile, body language and posture, and even the amount of perfume or cologne worn as well as revealed tattoos, piercings, etc.

  • Do you think that you present an overall professional image in the workplace?
  • What are employers’ first impressions of you when you show up for an interview?
  • Do you think you might need to do something differently in the future?


One’s professional reputation is determined by both behavior and character, both of which speak loudly to your co-workers and management.

ball of respect

Respectful in Speech, Interactions, Looks, Emotions and Reactions:

  • Do you treat your co-workers with the same level of respect in which you treat your boss?
  • Are your words true, kind, accommodating, generous, friendly, thoughtful, positive and encouraging?
  • Are you aware of how professionally you speak, look, act and react to others, especially when you are stressed, busy or dealing with a major problem? Is there room for improvement?
  • Do people find you approachable because of the respect you show them in all your interactions? When you treat others with real respect, you tend to earn the respect of others which goes a long way in the workplace!


man with tie holding ethics sign


  • Do you have an established set of principles for living? Do pre-determined values exist for how you will or will not choose to behave at the office?
  • Are you open, honest, and even transparent when it comes to your work?
  • Are you accountable and willing to accept personal responsibility for your mistakes and shortcomings?



  • Are you a man or woman of your word, committed to your tasks, and consistent day in/day out?
  • Do others trust you to get things done? Do you finish what you start and have a method for prioritizing those tasks?
  • Are you the go-to person in your office?
millennial man in workplace


  • Are you a worker, a thinker, a problem-solver?
  • What is your level of competency? Do you have the skills and knowledge needed to do all that the job requires? Does your resume convey your competency?
  • Do you meet and usually exceed expectations – always striving for improvement and excellence in what you offer to others?
  • Do you maintain a posture of wanting to learn and improve both yourself and your skills?


professional communication
  • Do you practice speaking with good grammar and vocabulary?
  • Do you have the written communication skills to go along with those verbal abilities?
  • Do you choose your words carefully and avoid inappropriate language at work (especially when handling a challenging situation/client or even when taking a personal call)?
  • Do you participate in office gossip, or do you stay as far away from it as you can get?
  • Are you perusing social media sites, texting or talking on your cellphone too much? Do you keep it at your fingertips during office hours?
  • Do you have a reputation for talking too much? Do people make up excuses just to get away from you? You want to be friendly, but learn the art of brevity . . . be brief, be bright, and be gone. 
  • Do you understand the boundaries of the workplace and the need to stay focused on work? Private relationships and shared personal confidences can get out of hand quickly if one is not intentional about pursuing those primarily during breaks and after work hours.
  • Can you keep confidential information as private as it is intended to be?
  • Do you keep your emotional issues at bay while at work, or do you feel the need to talk incessantly about them to your co-workers?


professional initiative - make things happen
  • Do you have a motivation to shine, be the change, make a positive difference and to work for the benefit of the greater good?
  • Do you volunteer often, give your best, and have that do-whatever-it-takes attitude?
  • Do you strive to work smarter, initiate new approaches, and understand new technologies and methods in the workplace?
  • Do you take ownership of your role and work hard to accomplish great things?
  • Do you also wisely and instinctively know when to back off or away from something which you strongly desire to initiate - because the timing is just not right or because additional groundwork is needed before moving forward?
  • Are you inclusive in your business relationships and embracing diversity in the workplace? Everyone wants to feel a part of the team, so do your part to build a strong one where each person has an important role to play.
  • In your competitiveness, do you jump ahead, whatever the cost, and leave all those other potential movers and shakers trailing behind you? Or do you include and support them, building a great team? Good leaders build other good leaders, always keeping the future in mind.
  • In your conversations, do you ask good questions and show curiosity regarding others’ interests and endeavors?
  • Are you comfortable meeting with others and networking?

There are a few other tell-tale signs of a professional employee as well:

  • One’s ability to respond maturely and to maintain a positive attitude when dealing with conflicts and problems, both personal and those involving others in the workplace
  • One’s successful approach to finding that work/life balance and setting the example for others
  • One’s general demeanor of humility, kindness, sincerity and the ability to interact well with most everyone in the workplace
  • One’s knack for incorporating wit and humor in the workplace
  • One’s ability to accomplish great things while keeping his/her integrity and reputation in tact
  • Others’ first impression is that of professional respect
professional lady - leadership image

Glancing over these defining aspects of professionalism, one realizes that this is an ideal characterization of a perfectly professional person. However, for the label to ring true, the imperfections of any professional must be heavily outweighed by the successful overall display of professional qualities that the individual has practiced and perfected over time. 

Developing your own level of professionalism can, in turn, increase your self-worth as well as your value to current and future employers.

For help in finding a professional position or hiring a professional job candidate, contact a recruiter at Brannon Professionals today.