What is the main quality that employers are looking for in employees? It can be summed up in a single word: professionalism.
Ask any entrepreneur or foreign investor about the main problems with working in a country like Bangladesh and time and time again you will hear the same answer: “It is not hard to find an employee that will work hard or for long hours. It is much harder to find an employee that knows how to work like a professional.”
But professionalism is not something that you can learn in school. Someone could be the most brilliant student in the world, understand the most advanced concepts in their area of study, and still be a terrible professional.
So how does one become a solid professional? There are no easy answers. Much of it comes down to experience and mentorship – and there are some people whose personality types will never be suited to professional work.
But there are rules of thumb and general principles that can guide young people to the path of professionalism. Here I present to you some simple rules – The Three P’s of Professionalism: Punctuality, Presentation and Perseverance.
Time management is the essence of professionalism. Never be late to appointments. In a city with so much traffic people often make excuses for late appointments and expect others to be understanding. Don’t be that person. Figure out how early you have to leave to avoid traffic. Don’t make excuses.
Punctuality is not just about making appointments – it is also about being on time with everything in your work. Never miss a deadline. Never wait too long to respond to emails. Sometimes you will have to work extra hours to do this – that’s fine, being a professional means working beyond 9 to 5 to deliver excellent results.
If you are going to be late and you can’t help it, the solution is simple – notify your employer/client as soon as possible and make arrangements so that the work is not delayed because of your lateness.
Professionals have to deliver complicated results to high value clients in a timely and effective manner. Clients have to believe that the professional understands this.
Poor personal presentation – unshaven faces, unclean shirts, eyes that are red from tiredness -all give a sign that someone does not have the qualities needed to deliver professional work. As a professional you must ensure that no matter how tired you are feeling, your clients will look at you and think that you have had a full night’s sleep with enough time in the morning to clean and dress properly.
Dress well but don’t be too flashy – avoid shirts with graphic designs or clothes that stand out too much. A small amount of makeup can make a female employee look clean and professional. Too much looks gaudy and out of place in a work environment.
Presentation is not just about how you look but also how you present yourself in your writing and speech. Speak clearly and to the point – never try and show off your knowledge by talking too much. And carefully check your English in your written reports and emails – errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation show that you have poor language skills and cannot be trusted with high level writing assignments.
A close friend was working for one of the top management consultancies in America. She had spent an entire week drawing up a detailed report for a client. When she presented it to them they said that she had done a poor job and not talked about many of the major issues. Even though her husband was waiting hundreds of miles away, she cancelled all her plans and stayed an extra three days. She worked all day and all night to make a new report. In the end, after all her hard work, they told her it was ‘satisfactory’.
She demonstrated the most important quality of a professional – perseverance. Even though all her hard work seemed wasted, she did not complain. She did not say that the client was wrong or did not understand. She listened to their criticism, and worked extra, unpaid hours to deliver the results that had been promised.
A professional is not a labourer – you cannot simply do a set of assigned tasks and go home. You must use your own intelligence and initiative to deliver complicated results and products to clients. Especially in the beginning of your career, do not let failure discourage you. You will fail many times. Don’t complain. Don’t give up. Work hard and try again. Persevere.