The “Be – Attitudes” of Professionalism

By Dr. Esther Ra, Career Advisor in Nursing, Education, & Social Policy & Practice

It is a new year and many of our Penn students have come back with gusto to begin the semester and that spring job search! If that predicament describes you, I want to draw
your attention to the Penn 7 Career Competencies. Are you familiar with them? Have you put
some thought into how you are growing in these elements at Penn and beyond?

Among the Penn 7, I often address competencies related to Professionalism and Work Ethic
with students in my office. Whether an undergraduate or graduate student, the “professional”
piece of this competency can be a quagmire and where I usually field an array questions.

Please note that these “be-attitudes” are principles that should not be limited to a job search,
but implemented and displayed all throughout your career and frankly, in all other areas of life!

1. Be Punctual. Be on time. I can take this a step further and say, be a little early. If you are meeting an employer for an interview, be five minutes early. Respecting another person’s time shows care that you are aware and mindful of others. This also applies to phone meetings and Skype meetings. If tardiness cannot be helped (i.e. unforeseen circumstances), call in advance and give notice for your lateness.

2. Be Prepared. Before meeting with potential employers, do your research. It is your due diligence. I have had students skip this step and unfortunately, it has backfired terribly. This is a big mistake, resulting in wasted efforts and time on both the part of you and the employer. For example, if you gather information on the employer and their mission, it will give you a sense of their raison d’etre. If the principles of the company does not agree with your own, eliminate it from your potential job search list. Furthermore, come ready to ask good questions about the employer’s current work and organization. Employers like smart questions and will remember if you appeared ready to engage. Be current on the employers’ research endeavors and news. Did you check their Twitter account to see what has been trending? Have they been noted in the news lately for new research? Be sure to check all media outlets, including social media, to get the scoop on the employer. This is a crucial element in displaying professionalism on the job market.

3. Be Respectful. When interacting with potential employers or even professional contacts for networking, be sure to speak to them with respect. This sounds like a given, but it is a great reminder to not let your guard down. For example, DO send thank you emails after meeting with employers. Thank them for their time and energy spent on talking with you. DO refer to them by their title, unless they otherwise say so (ex. Professor, Doctor, etc.). DO NOT bombard employers or professional contacts with the same request by way of email and phone in the same day. Give employers and professional contacts the space to respond, even if it is not within 24 hours. Chances are, they are quite busy individuals. Many are willing to respond, but also have other hats they are wearing in their work and family lives. Be respectful of this and DO NOT demand or overstep boundaries.

4. Be ethical. Employers are always searching to find reliable employees with integrity. Many of the behavioral questions asked during the interview process try to gauge this competency. How did you handle difficult situations? Are you trustworthy? Did you CHOOSE to make the right decision in your previous workplace? Are you wise and fair with your time? Do you own your mistakes? Do you keep work information confidential? Do your part to be an employee who is known for their integrity. Be fair to others, to yourself, and to your employer. It will not go unnoticed.

5. Be you. Above all, BE YOU. Be the best version of you. Penn students are without a doubt exceptionally hard working, innovative, and unique. The professors and administrators here all desire for your continued success. Use the resources around you and push yourself to be the best YOU, you can be. If you need anything, we are here to help you.

Ways to Practice Professionalism at Penn:

1. Be on time for class and appointments. No explanation needed.

2. Be courteous. Address people appropriately. When addressing professors and administrators appropriately in emails and in person, address them as Professor X or Dr. Z, unless they indicate otherwise. DO NOT assume their title or that they want to be called by their first name.

3. Be there or be square. When you say you will be present at an event, be there. If you will not be able to make it, give notice of your cancellation. DO NOT be a “no show” and brush it off as no big deal. People remember “no shows” and it does not reflect well. If you have to be absent from class, for example, own your absence, and send your professor a note of apology with the valid reason why you have to miss class. Do the same with appointments across campus, whether it be at CAPS, Career Services, or at Health Services. Your cancellation could be an opportunity for another student who may need that appointment.

4. Be respectful to all, even to those you do not necessarily gravitate towards. This should go without explanation, however, sometimes we all need reminding; in your working life there will be varying viewpoints on topics (including politics), differing philosophies in carrying out projects, and general opinions you do not care for or want to discuss. While such circumstances require careful navigation, you should never “fall out” of respect. Be calm when addressing differences; DO NOT take matters personally, and smile.

5. Be thankful. Say thank you. This is a gesture, which is often forgotten, but so very simple. After meeting with a professor, email them to say thank you. After meeting with classmates for a group project, email to say thank you for the efforts to all that contributed. A simple thank you goes a very long way. Though we may be in the digital era with email thank yous, I can assure you that simple, handwritten thank you notes are not obsolete. Thanking someone shows respect and appreciation for an action taken or time spent. Everyone likes to be recognized. Saying thank you shows endless class and never goes out of style.

There you have the “be-attitudes.” Now, go and practice them!