Being a professional doesn't necessarily require wearing a suit or having an advanced degree. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, being a professional means conducting yourself with responsibility, integrity, accountability and excellence. In addition, it means communicating appropriately and always finding ways to be productive. It is essential to keep these ideas in mind both in your role as an employee and as a student.
Components of professionalism
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) brings together career services, university and business professionals to prepare college students to succeed in the professional environment. NACE affiliated professionals collaborated to identify skills and qualities employers seek in successful employees.
This information serves as a guide for career services professionals as they work to assist students in developing their professionalism. The MCC Career Services team strives to communicate NACE professional competency information to students and to incorporate competencies into each Career Services event and experience.
- Critical thinking/problem solving
- Oral and written communications
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Digital technology
- Professionalism and work-ethic
- Career management
- Global and intercultural fluency
NACE Competencies Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
Your appearance should fit the situation. What's considered appropriate to wear as a student in the classroom may not be appropriate attire for a job interview. Brightly colored hair or visible tattoos, for example, may be acceptable in the classroom, but you should dress more conservatively for an interview. What's considered appropriate to wear as a welder may not be appropriate attire for a teacher. Think about the situation, the people that you'll be around, and the message that you want to communicate. Make sure that your appearance doesn't take away from your message!
The student/employee who doesn't let small problems interfere with getting the job done is appreciated for his/her professional attitude. Your attitude is a key factor in your ability to develop strong relationships with those around you and in today's world that network of people that you've built is incredibly important.
Show up to work and class on time. Turn projects in when they're due. Come to class or meetings prepared. Dependability means you follow through by doing what you say you're going to do. This quality will help differentiate you from the masses. Being a person of your word is a valuable reputation to establish.
The way you communicate tells a lot about you. Think about your audience. The way that you speak to your friends may not be the most appropriate way to speak to a supervisor. Using "text speech" when texting your friends is acceptable, but using this method when emailing an instructor may be frowned upon. One part of communication involves the words that we are writing or speaking, but communication also involves tone, eye contact and body language. Components of professional communication:
- Via email: Don't think of an email as a text. Think of it more like a formal letter. Always include a subject line, an introduction and a closing. Use correct punctuation and spell check.
- In person: One of the most important things you can do to be a good communicator is to listen. Active listening is a skill that can benefit you in most areas of your life. It involves eye contact, facial expression, body posture and gestures.
Looking at your phone while someone is speaking to you is rude and unprofessional. Let the speaker know that you hear them. When it's your turn to speak make sure that what you say is appropriate for the individual and the situation. If you're in the workplace, in an interview or at an event where you don't know many people, it's probably best to leave politics, religion and very personal information out of the conversation.
Dress for Success
When job hunting first impressions are critical. Before you say a single word to the interviewer you will have already made an impression based on how you're dressed. That is why it is important to pay attention to how you dress for an interview. Typically, how much you dress up will be determined by the type of job you are applying for, but a good rule of thumb is to be more dressed up than less. Always dress conservatively and avoid anything tight, bright, short or sheer.
Dress for success checklist
Make sure you have:
- clean and polished conservative dress shoes
- well-groomed hairstyle
- cleaned and trimmed fingernails
- minimal cologne or perfume
- no visible facial and body piercings
- well-brushed teeth and fresh breath
- no gum, candy or other objects in your mouth
- minimal jewelry
The interview is one of the most critical pieces of the job search, typically being the most vital criterion for hiring. While the employer evaluates your qualifications, personality and ability, you assess the opportunity and the company. Therefore, understanding the purpose is the first step in being prepared and handling the interview with confidence.
- Know the date, time and location of the interview and plan to arrive 10 minutes early; this will give you time to compose yourself. Know the interviewer's full name and title.
- Research the company website, LinkedIn and Facebook pages. Find out what the company does and positive elements about the company. Refer to that information in the interview when appropriate.
- Read over the job description and understand what may be expected from the new hire and your matching qualifications. If the description is vague, try O*NET OnLine, a federal website which has detailed descriptions of jobs.
- Practice interviewing. Sit in front of a mirror and rehearse your questions then answer until you sound like you are having a casual conversation.
- Select your clothes ahead of time - conservative is best. Wear something that is both professional and comfortable. Dress up. No one will fault you for overdressing.
- Clothes should be clean and well-fitting; hair needs to be recently styled. Keep items such as jewelry, makeup and perfume to a minimum and prepare to bring a professional looking portfolio with paper to take notes. Prepare a few questions that you can ask at the end, but keep the questions to around three.
- If you bring a purse with you, carry a small one with only the necessary items.
- Since you've arrived early, take a moment to compose yourself in the men's or ladies room and take a quick once over of your hair, makeup and clothes.
- Introduce yourself to the front desk person and treat everyone with respect. Many times this person will be asked about his/her interactions with the applicants.
- Power down the mobile phone and any other electronic devices (unless you need something for a presentation). Do not sit in the waiting area texting or making calls; focus on the moment and on relaxation techniques.
- When you are called into the interview, shake hands with the interviewer.
- Companies are impressed by candidates who are energetic, enthusiastic and positive.
- Bring copies of your resume and references.
- When answering, lean forward, listen to the questions and then answer using professional language without slang.
- Be prepared for behavioral questions and have at least three scenarios ready. Refer to Live Career, which is a great website for sample questions and answers.
- Give answers emphasizing your ability to do the job. Demonstrate how your experiences/education can transfer into their job needs (transferrable skills).
- Remain positive and confident at all times (remember, you've already practiced this at home in front of the mirror).
- Answer in a conversational manner, give good eye contact and smile when appropriate.
- When asked,
- "Do you have any questions?" the answer is always yes! Ask about three questions as if you are already in the position. Avoid questions about pay and benefits.
- As soon as your interview is over, write down the interview questions that you can remember and your answers. This will be your time to evaluate the process and decide what worked well and areas of improvement. Reflect on as many things as possible, including your body language and that of the interviewer(s).
- Send a personal thank you note (email or handwritten) to the interviewer(s). Give further insight regarding your interest in the job and/or additional information that may have been missed during the interview.
- If you are offered the job, be excited! If the opposite happens, try not to hold a grudge or become angry. Thank them again for their time and the opportunity to interview. This shows a high level of professionalism.
A resume is an essential tool for any job search. Your resume's job is to move you to the next step in the job-search process, the interview. Although a lot of time, effort and thought has gone into cracking the secret, there is no "perfect" resume. There are some general guidelines that everyone should follow:
- Your resume should be skills and results-based.
- Use action verbs to describe your qualifications and accomplishments.
- Don't write your resume in the first person.
- Your resume should be one to two pages.
- Tailor your resume to the position to which you are applying.
- Proofread your resume and ask a professional to proofread it too. You should not have any typographical or grammatical errors.
- Have accurate information on your resume.
- List references on a separate page.
- Don't include unrelated personal information (photo, marital status, Social Security number) on your resume.
- Employment history should include five to 10 years of employment unless what you did 12-15 years previously relates to the position to which you are applying.
Your cover letter is an essential piece of the application process. The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce yourself to the employer. It also gives you the chance to show your personality, passion and interest in the company. It also allows the employer to see your written communication abilities and attention to detail.
- Your cover letter should be one page that is written and gives a clear message to enhance your resume.
- It should be well written without any typographical or grammatical errors and in the correct business format.
- Ask yourself, what is the reader learning from my letter?
- Your cover letter should include three sections:
- 1st paragraph - the position you are applying for, and something about the organization and why you are interested in working for them.
- 2nd paragraph - why you are the qualified candidate by matching some of your qualifications or education to the job description.
- 3rd paragraph - closing statement, using a few sentences about your career goal and how this company fits within that path. Politely ask for the interview and thank the reader for his time.Hel
Labor and salary Information
- America's Career InfoNet
- Bureau of Labor Statistics - KC Metro Area Occupational Employment & Wage Estimates
- Bureau of Labor Statistics - Index to Services
- Bureau of Labor Statistics - Employment Projections
- Missouri Economic Research and Information Center - Regional Economic Information
- Occupation Outlook Handbook - Career Information
- Occupation Outlook Quarterly - Updated Issues
- Career Guide - Career Information by Industry
- O*NET Resource Center - Occupational Information Network
- MyPlan.com - Resource for college and career information