Professionalism is a word thrown around so often in the workforce, but very seldom is it ever explained what falls under this umbrella term we love to use.
Professionalism isn’t just one or two things, it’s a combination of a plethora of things! Professionalism can be demonstrated in your attire, it’s the content of your speech, it’s the verbiage you use, it’s how you carry and conduct yourself. The perspective on professionalism and what being professional entails is something that’s constantly changing as the work environment evolves. Supervisors and managers who are over employees that work from home may have a different perspective on professionalism than traditionally thought.
When working from home there are often company or team meetings where you’ll more than likely must be on camera interacting with your team. It should be noted that just because a person is working from home, it doesn’t mean they have it any easier or get the freedom to “do what they want” all the time. For example, zoom etiquette is extremely important in today’s workforce with the rise in remote positions. It’s important to ensure your background is clear of any debris or clutter and that you’re completely free of any distractions. You should also be abiding by any dress code that’s enforced or implied, this is where the work from home employees may have a bit of versatility as every WFH position is different and some may allow you to come to zoom meetings in casual wear. However, it should be assumed that if the dress code is not stated you should always come in business casual at the very least. Ensure that your connection is stable, and you won’t have any interruptions of service whilst on the call, though if it cannot be avoided it’s best to just let the person over the meeting know immediately.
Now that we’ve discussed Zoom etiquette, it’s also important to note how professionalism applies to the more traditional workforce employees that interview and work within a brick-and-mortar establishment. Professionalism while Interviewing should be standard but what does that look like? When going in for an interview you should always be dressed in business casual if the dress code is not specified, as well as using the appropriate language and verbiage with the hiring managers, it would be considered unprofessional to come to an interview wearing casual clothing, swearing, or gossiping, having interruptions from devices like a cell phone, or even being unprepared for the interview. (Check out how to be prepared for an interview here)
You’ve gotten through the interview, so what does professionalism look like once you have the job? Similar things apply to the role as does interviewing, however every role is different and some roles for example, may call for an employee being very discreet and overseeing confidential files. This means your employer trusts you as an employee to behave ethically and in not doing so, you would also be behaving unprofessionally. It should be noted that in a work environment certain things should never be discussed like sexual situations, personal stories that may make others uncomfortable, any gossip about other coworkers, etc. Showing up to work in the correct attire is only one part of being professional, how you conduct yourself at work plays a large part in how you are seen as an individual.
So what about outside of work?
I get it, it can be tiring as a PoC having to code switch in places of employment so often and wanting to just be yourself once you clock out. Though it can be challenging to feel as though you can be yourself outside of work with companies looking through social media accounts. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t have anything on the internet you wouldn’t be ok with your boss seeing, but where does the line get drawn? When does it stop being about how you’re representing the company and start being exactly what it is? Intrusive. Employees should feel comfortable expressing themselves how they see fit outside of work and on platforms that are meant for them to share the best parts of their lives with those they love and care about. Professionalism can be tricky in that case as it can quickly get political and it’s a slippery slope of what someone should be allowed to post or not post, what they should be held accountable for and not. Until we get to a point where employees are seen as people with lives outside of their work, I think the best course of action would be to keep your social media pages private if you’re going to post things that may land you in hot water. Take these tips on professionalism and apply them to your life if you aren’t already, you’d be surprised how far you can go based on other’s perceptions of you.