What does it mean to act professional?
Acting professional means working and behaving in such a way that others think of you as competent, reliable and respectful. 
Why is it important to act professional?
Professionalism is important because it help you to be taken seriously at work and even to earn promotions.
If you want to be seen as the rising start in the work place, you will need to quickly transition from college to career.

Working hard is one aspect but being professional is just as important.

It will help for your peers and bosses to see you as mature and see your leadership potential.

Even the most progressive and laid back environments like in entertainment have a code.

It will do you a lot of good to hear the unspoken parameters of professionalism in your industry as soon as you get there.

Here are some universal ways to become more professional:


College, social media and movies make it hard to take yourself seriously.

You should not take yourself too seriously in social situations.

At work, however, especially when you are new, it is best to conduct yourself civilly and officially.

This covers your dressing, posture, speech, interactions with colleagues and how you handle your emotions.
Dress within your industry standards of smart and official.
Even on casual Fridays, keep it business casual.

Do not think that you need new and expensive suits for work but you do need to wear clean, well ironed and appropriate clothes.

Do not break the bank or go into debt buying clothes.

For my first job after college, I bought one black and one navy blue blazer from a thrift store.

Then I looked for two skirts and two pant suits that matched the shade of each blazer.

I already had plenty of shiffon blouses. I do not remember how much it cost but it was ridiculously cheap.

It lasted me all week, every week for a very long time. My approach to fashion has always been frugal and minimalist but stylish.

Do not slump in chairs or walk like you are on a runway or like you want to hide.
Be confident and unintimidated by being young or new. 

Great coworkers, smile at them, start conversations at the coffee maker and eventually start going to lunch with them.

The easiest way to start talking to coworkers is by asking for help and information when you are still new. 
Learn how to communicate effectively across age gap and diversity.

Master the art of effective communication in the work place and even public speaking. You want to be meaningful and direct when you talk.

Remove a lot of slang and fillers such as ‘uhhm’ and ‘like’ when you speak.

You do not want of your peers and superiors thinking of you as a child.

Speaking off children, always be in control of your emotions. Emotional outbursts will not get you what you want at work.


It may seem obvious but in a professional environment, respect is shown by showing up on time, meeting deadlines, helping when you can, listening to opinions and such things.

You may not think much about showing to a meeting three minutes late, you may even think you have a valid reason, but other people will interpret that as unprofessional.

I remember working in an office where it was the custom for people to show up to meetings late.

One of the ladies in the office warned me early on not to adopt that culture and that I should always be on time.

Ironic because she never took her own advise.

It was not long before people were reprimanded for their poor time management and advised to take a page from my book.

It was the first thing I was recognized for in that job.

Learn how to speak up for yourself.
Disagree with people without trashing their ideas and learn how to take criticism without getting defensive.

These are three very important aspects of respectful behavior especially for a team player. 

Respect personal and professional boundaries.

If people are obsessed with titles, just use them. Never ever speak trash about a coworker behind their backs.

Do not participate in office gossip. Shift the conversation to something wholesome or excuse yourself.

Gossip is not only unprofessional but just plain bad manners.

Another aspect is earn people’s respect and do not let them cross your own boundaries.
Be strong and assertive whenever anyone crosses a boundary.
Warn them firmly and respectfully. There was a guy who kept playing around with the women at work.

I think maybe because he was good looking they let him get away with it.

One day, he touched me in a way that I considered inappropriate. I remember being horrified.

I looked him in the eyes and firmly told him, “I do not like being touched like that. Do not do it again.”

It never happened again. In fact, he begun to dislike me but I was just glad I did not have to deal with his nonsense.


This is the natural result from acting maturely and treating other people with respect.

Being professional does not mean being socially rigid. Find a balance between being a colleague and being a friend.

You are going to spend a lot of your life at work, you need people that you are at least excited to work with or spend lunch together. 

If you want that promotion, you had better have some supporters in your corner.

I know for a fact that the guy I talked about earlier would never speak well of me to our boss but everyone else in the office would have.

This is because I took my time to great them and help them out whenever they came to my desk.

I was not friends with everyone but I was friendly with everyone in the different departments I interacted with.


For everyone’s sanity, stop writing crappy emails. Just do better.

Learn how to write official emails, reports, proposals and all those papers.

The secret to official writing is brevity and temperance. Write shorter, clearer, digestible information.

I used to learn how to write better emails by copying how my boss worded hers.

She could be totally frustrated with someone and send a two sentence email that said everything you needed to know.

Every office has its own writing style. Adopt quickly.

It’s not just writing, if there is any crucial skill in your industry, you will look more professional if you master it quickly.

For example something as simple as learning how to make better power point presentations.


This final tip is a matter of confidence. Do not wait to be given accolades for a job well done.

It may never come as anything other than a paycheck at the end of the month.

If you wait for it, you will be very unhappy at work. If you doubt yourself, you will be undervalued or taken advantage of. You may never get the raises or promotions you deserve.

Do self assessment and learn from colleagues how you can improve and just kill it at work.

Be among the best if not the best. Keep a record of your achievements in quantifiable terms.

If you can, send your boss a one page summary of your achievements every month.

When the time is right, ask for a raise using Ramit Sethi’s briefcase technique.

Ultimately professionalism is about

reliabilitycan you be counted upon to do the job you are being paid for

competency: do you know what you are doing 

respect: do you care enough about the job and the people you are working with.

These three are held together by maturity. 

Hope you found this information helpful. Comment down below if you have another tip for us. 


  1. This is great advice, especially for new graduates entering the workforce!


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