Professionalism in the workplace includes more than knowing how to dress and how to deal with your colleagues, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). It suggests that to find and keep a job, you should be responsible, ethical, team-oriented and have strong interpersonal, problem-solving and communication skills. Professionalism isn’t something you should learn on the job, and some employers may not even give you a chance to do so. However, most colleges offer classes you can take to help you prepare for the workplace after you’ve earned your degree.
General Professionalism Courses
Recognizing the need to better train students in professionalism in the workplace, colleges have started offering classes on just that. For example, in 2010, George Mason University launched a course on professionalism and civility. The one-hour elective course covers peacekeeping, tolerance, protocol, inclusion, communication, manners and etiquette. Students at Hillsborough Community College and others interested in learning about workplace professionalism, can take a seven-hour course that covers topics including attitude and perspective, dress and appearance, etiquette, communication skills, time management and problem-solving attitudes. Some college even offer professionalism in the workplace courses for non-degree-seeking students.
Beyond a general professionalism in the workplace course, you may be able to take a similar course geared specifically to the industry in which you want to work. Montgomery College in Maryland offers a variety of such classes for students enrolled in its early childhood education program. Most law schools require its students take at least one course in professionalism in the workplace and some law schools even build an entire curriculum around it. You’ll also likely need to take a course in professionalism in the workplace if you’re studying to earn your medical degree.
In 2009, York College of Pennsylvania’s then newly created Center for Professional Excellence surveyed human resources personnel about how professional recent college graduates are. That year, 37 percent of responders reported that less than half of recent college graduates exhibited appropriate professionalism in the workplace. A follow-up in 2012 identified several areas where recent college graduate fall short in the workplace. Responders to the 2012 survey cited inappropriate use of technology as the primary way that recent college grads are unprofessional at the workplace.
Workplace Skills That Matter
Whether or not your college transcript include a course on workplace professionalism, human resources personnel expect recent college grads know how to conduct themselves on the job. Along with your degree, you should have impeccable interpersonal and communication skills, confidence, a strong work ethic, knowledge and appearance. Knowing when and when not to use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and when not to text, also tops the list of qualities that human resources personnel look for when hiring recent college grads.
- U.S. Department of Labor: Professionalism
- York College of Pennsylvania: 2013 Professionalism in the Workplace
- Hillsborough Community College: Professionalism in the Workplace
- Miami Dade College: Workshop -- Professionalism in the Workplace
- Montgomery College: Early Childhood Education Professionalism
- George Mason University: New Course Offered in Professionalism and Civility
- The Massachusetts Daily Collegian: Study Finds College Graduates Lacking Professionalism
- Hendrix College: College Grads Lacking Professionalism in the Workplace
- The University of Chicago Law School: Law School Introduces Keystone Professionalism and Leadership Program for Students
- Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania: Professional Program at Penn Medicine
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.