On the Job Tips: What it Means to Be Professional

being professional at workTaking these simple steps can mean big improvements in your career

In any career field, there are “hard skills” and “soft skills.” The hard skills are the specific career skills you have learned that you may include on your resume. For example, if you have trained to become a medical assistant or other allied healthcare position, the hard skills would be your clinical skills, such as taking blood pressure, drawing blood, and administering injections.

Soft skills are harder to define. They are often common sense behaviors, such as treating others with respect, being helpful, and being proactive. No matter how expert you are in the hard skills of your career field, it’s important to work on your soft skills too. Below are some tips on how to improve your professionalism and your soft skills.

1. Be respectful
Showing respect to others is one of the top traits of successful professionals. This means respecting not only your supervisor, but your co-workers too, whether they work above or below your position. And it should go without saying that you need to be respectful of your customers, patients, or clients. Being respectful means speaking calmly and politely to others, using good manners, avoiding gossip, being a good listener, and valuing what the other person is doing or saying. Positive body language is also important. Look people in the eye when speaking with them, and remember to smile.

2. Be proactive
People who are proactive are able to spot a need before being asked. Most workplaces are busy places. Some days you will feel swamped, and other days you might have extra time on your hands. If you do have extra time, try to be helpful to others who may be busier. Look for what needs to be done, and see if you can help with it. Look for processes that can be improved, and make a suggestion to your supervisor. This kind of attitude will impress your supervisor and give you a positive reputation.

3. Go above and beyond
Don’t be one of those people who only wants to do the bare minimum. You can do better than that. Make sure you do your job well so that you are proud of your work at the end of each day. If you have the time and the motivation, try to go above and beyond. Say “yes” to new assignments. Try to learn at least one new thing on your job every day. Make the extra effort to stay current with new technologies. The more you put into your career, the better you will feel about it.

4. Don’t complain
Every job has its ups and downs. Depending on your attitude, you can focus on the positives or you can dwell on the negatives. We’re suggesting that you pick the positives! Being a complainer only brings other people down. Your supervisor will notice if you are a complainer, and it could reflect badly on your job performance evaluation. And this is very important: don’t ever complain on social media! You do not want to leave an online trail of complaints that your employer might see. If there are negative aspects of your job, try to see what you can do to change them. And if you can’t change them, then try to focus on the positives and accept the negatives.

5. Keep on learning
No matter what your career field, there are always new things to learn. In healthcare careers in particular, there are constantly new developments and new technologies. Don’t be afraid of change. Keep up with the changes by taking continuing education classes and learning from others on the job. It is important to be flexible and adaptable, in case there are any major shifts in your career field.

6. Dress professionally
Many jobs have much more casual dress codes than in the past, so the standard for professional attire has changed. Still, it is important to look good on the job. If you are in healthcare and wear scrubs to work, then make sure they are clean and unwrinkled. Wear shoes that are in good condition and keep your hair styled neatly. If you work in an office setting, wear business casual clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Dressing well can convey that you are serious about your job.

7. Keep a lid on your electronics
When you are at work, you should not be looking at your cell phone! Taking personal calls, texting your friends, or posting anything to social media are big no-no’s on the job. These can be huge drains on your productivity, and on top of that, you will not look professional if you are always staring at your phone. Find out your employer’s policy on using your cell phone at work and make sure you know what is permitted.

With these tips, we hope you have a better understanding of the “soft skills” that can improve your job performance. With a little practice and perseverance, your skills will get noticed!


This article is courtesy of the Harris School of Business. Our school specializes in healthcare career training. Our graduates go on to become Medical Assistants, Health Claims Specialists (medical billing and coding), Dental Assistants, Massage Therapists, and more. Find out more about the Harris School.