Now you’ll know how to be a real pro

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - INVESTING - — Robert Half In­ter­na­tional, a spe­cial­ized staffing firm with a global net­work of staffing and con­sult­ing lo­ca­tions

Un­pro­fes­sional be­hav­ior can un­der­mine your re­la­tion­ships with col­leagues — and limit your ca­reer.

Pro­fes­sion­al­ism is im­por­tant for many rea­sons. Time spent ac­com­mo­dat­ing a col­league’s prickly ego or ever-chang­ing moods is time taken away from work­ing to­ward a com­mon goal. As cus­tomer ser­vice has be­come the crit­i­cal dif­fer­en­tia­tor for so many busi­nesses, the abil­ity to treat cus­tomers and clients with tact and cour­tesy has be­come in­dis­pens­able. And, of course, al­most ev­ery­one sim­ply prefers work­ing with peo­ple who make them feel re­spected.

De­spite its value, pro­fes­sion­al­ism is far from univer­sal. That means you can set your­self apart from the com­pe­ti­tion by ad­her­ing to a pro­fes­sional code of con­duct, es­pe­cially if you’re rel­a­tively new to the work­force.

Most of us can eas­ily call up vivid ex­am­ples of un­pro­fes­sional be­hav­ior, from dis­hon­esty to chronic late­ness to the en­tire fi­nal hour of last year’s hol­i­day party. Defin­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism is a lit­tle trick­ier. While there may be no uni­ver­sally ac­cepted def­i­ni­tion, most em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees would agree on its core com­po­nents. Here are seven key el­e­ments of pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

When some­thing goes wrong, do you im­me­di­ately look for ways to avoid blame or for ways to cor­rect the prob­lem? Tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for a mis­take — and then learn­ing from it — might be the most reli­able mark of a true pro­fes­sional.

True pro­fes­sion­als tend to be aware of how their work and be­hav­ior af­fects ev­ery­one around them. Small cour­te­sies such as let­ting col­leagues know in ad­vance when you’ll be un­avail­able can make a big dif­fer­ence in the team’s over­all performanc­e.

1. Ac­count­abil­ity. 2. Con­sid­er­a­tion. 3. Hu­mil­ity.

If you’re un­sure how to best per­form a task, do you ask for help or plow for­ward? If you’re too proud to take di­rec­tion or crit­i­cism, you’re putting pride ahead of the good of the team and the health of your ca­reer.

4. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Avoid­ing com­ments that make oth­ers un­com­fort­able or un­der­val­ued is a pre­req­ui­site, of course, but true pro­fes­sion­als also grasp many sub­tler as­pects of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. For ex­am­ple, when you pro­vide feed­back, are you care­ful to do it in a way that will be help­ful rather than be­lit­tling? Do you lis­ten to in­put from oth­ers even when you think you know best?

The ef­fect of your per­sonal choices on oth­ers ex­tends to the clothes you wear. A suit and tie don’t make you a pro­fes­sional. But tak­ing care to dress ap­pro­pri­ately for your work­place con­veys that you’re at­tuned to your en­vi­ron­ment and that you re­spect the job and the peo­ple around you. It’s also a mat­ter of self-in­ter­est, since em­ploy­ers say that cloth­ing choices af­fect pro­mo­tion prospects.

Approachin­g oth­ers with pa­tience and re­spect for their per­spec­tive en­ables con­struc­tive crit­i­cism and stronger col­lab­o­ra­tion. When in doubt, fall back on the old standby: Treat oth­ers as you’d like to be treated.

5. Tidi­ness. 6. Kind­ness. 7. Consistenc­y.

Pro­fes­sion­al­ism is eas­i­est to mea­sure when things aren’t go­ing well — when you’ve done sub­par work, mis­com­mu­ni­cated with a co-worker or when clients or col­leagues are be­hav­ing un­pro­fes­sion­ally. Un­der duress, do you treat peo­ple with the same re­spect as you do when ev­ery­thing’s click­ing? True pro­fes­sion­als aren’t nec­es­sar­ily less emotional than other work­ers, but they are less likely to let those emo­tions lead to out­bursts and other knee­jerk re­ac­tions.

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