Is Too Much Professionalism Harming Your Career?


My clients want to be seen as professionals in their working environments because the thought-leaders tell us time and again that demonstrating professionalism is one of requirements to getting promoted. The "Chicago Tribune's" article titled "7 Steps to Getting Promoted" is a good example.

Yes, professionalism is important; however, too much professionalism can be a detriment.

What I see in my international, high-achieving clients is a struggle to be a professional while maintaining their unique identities and authenticity.

My clients often fear that if they show their true selves at work and reveal to their peers the fun sides of their personalities, they won't be taken seriously.

If your professionalism makes you feel stymied, then you've probably taken it a bit too far. I believe it is possible to demonstrate your professionalism AND show the fun-loving side of your personality at work.

People who get stuck believing these myths are seeing only the surface of professionalism. They repress their real selves to the point that they lose the unique sparks of their personalities. And they end up being cookie-cutter versions of employees.

Your professionalism shows itself in your work ethic, your attitude, and how you interact with your colleagues.

Here are three tips to true professionalism that will help you maintain your personality (instead of becoming a cardboard cut-out of a hard working employee):

1. Respect yourself, your work, and the members of your workgroup.

When you lead and take action from a place of respect, your true professionalism shines through. Move away from a "me-centered mindset" toward one that's focused on "we." Ask yourself how you can serve the group and what actions you can take to make the working environment better for everyone.

2. Be your true self.

People like working with colleagues they feel a connection to. But, to create a connection with others, you must first show up fully as yourself. Connection is not something you can fake. It requires you to reveal your personality--quirks and all. Relax at work, and be the person who your friends and family know and love. They love you for who you are. Bring together your work persona and your home persona. Consolidate those two parts of yourself and become one, whole you. You do your best work when you are comfortable with yourself.

3. Speak your true mind.

You were hired into your position for a reason. And that reason was NOT to keep silent or to pretend you agree with everything that passes your desk. You were selected because you have a special something that adds value to the team. When you don't share your specialness and speak your true mind, you hide your most valuable asset.

Yes, there will be times when you doubt yourself. Fear will creep in and you will wonder if your contribution is "right." That's part of being human. The important thing to remember is that as long as you are respectful and doing your best work, your opinion matters.

Professionalism is not about being serious at work or trying to be someone you think you should be. It's about sharing your skills and your unique style. It's about always doing your best work, being a team player, and going the extra mile for the good of the group.

You can be truly yourself and be a professional.

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