17 Simple Habits That Make You Look More Professional

In business, and even when you are out enjoying life, you probably notice plenty of people around you who seem at home in their chosen field.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

In business, and even when you are out enjoying life, you probably notice plenty of people around you who seem at home in their chosen field.

This could be the judge in the front of the courtroom that exudes authority, the accountant who crunches numbers and soothes your worries with her candor about your financial picture, or the waiter who can easily serve five tables and deal with a spilled glass of wine with a smile on his face.

What each of these people have in common is professionalism.

Although professionalism is something nearly every individual would like to improve, it is not something that can be "turned on" like a switch. It is actually made up of dozens of different qualities, that can vary quite a bit from person to person and position to position.

However, we have put together seventeen qualities that you can begin working on today that will help you to be more professional in the workplace.

  1. Preparation - The Boy Scout motto is: "Be Prepared." Whether you were a Boy Scout, Girl Scout or you avoided the great outdoors like the plague, this is an important adage to follow. When you prepare for those crazy occurrences, you will appear less flustered when they happen. Professionalism at its best.

  • Caring - Learning about other people's goals, fears, hopes and dreams does not make you weak. Caring, anticipating their needs and acting on them makes you strong--when done in a strong manner.
  • Dependability - It is easy to make promises; on the other hand, it is not always a simple matter to follow through on what you say. Make it happen and you will boost your professionalism.
  • Realism - There is nothing wrong with being a dreamer. However, make sure that you are being realistic in your dreams. Demonstrating with actions that your dreams are achievable is much more impressive than offering wild, crazy ideas with nothing to back them up.
  • Confidence - This is one of the biggest and most important actions to make you appear more professional, even if you haven't quite gotten there yet. As they always say: "fake it until you make it."
  • Candor - While confidence and a bit of bravado is sometimes a good thing, being forthright about what you know is often important too. Assess the situation and decide when you need to be candid about your own abilities.
  • Strategic Thinking - Logic and strategy is useful in nearly any industry. The people that have that professional edge are able to look at the goal and work backward to achieve them. It may take work, but it all starts with strategy.
  • Self Awareness - The knowledge of who you are, where you fit in the world (and in your company or business) is important. Also vital is knowing, and owning, your strengths and weaknesses. This type of self-awareness will take you far.
  • Enthusiasm - Colin Powell once said: "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier." Smart enthusiasm about your company, the business or your industry can help you stand head and shoulders above the competition.
  • Accomplishment - Getting it done, achieving more and having something to show for it is a marker of a professional. Challenge yourself, accomplish that goal, win that award. Your performance says a lot about your professional record.
  • Diligence - Be persistent, demonstrate a strong work ethic day after day. Even if you falter, come back stronger the next day. Diligent individuals are professionals to the core.
  • Discretion - One of the most difficult communication skills to master, but essential to the professional, discretion is key. Being candid without offending is challenging but can open doors that will serve you throughout your career.
  • Curiosity - A professional never stops learning and would never want to quit either. Being curious breeds opportunities for growth.
  • Self-Challenging - Taking risks, and going against the grain is part of growing. Being willing to challenge yourself shows others that you are serious about growth.
  • Humor - A great sense of humor is a gift that cannot be replicated. However, there is a time and place for everything. Knowing when to use that humor is what a true professional does best.
  • Fitness - While you do not need to be a professional bodybuilder or a marathon runner, it is important to take care of yourself. When you look like you care about your health, it projects professionalism.
  • Authenticity - At the end of the day, everything you do should be grounded in a sense of truth. Being your true self, above all else is vital.
  • As you can see, there are many little things that go into making you more professional.

    Don't become overwhelmed--start small; pick one and go with it. You will be there before you know it.