Professionalism in the Workplace Series: Part III

This is part three of our series on professionalism. The Executive Director for Career Services on the Daytona Beach Campus, Alicia, Smyth, answers a few questions as to why professionalism is essential in our ever evolving workplace.

What is your personal definition of professionalism? 

Professionalism is such a complex topic. To me, in its most simplest terms, it’s how you conduct yourself in settings related to work. I think there are some questions that you might ask yourself when assessing professionalism: Are you competent? Are you reliable and consistent? Do you practice integrity in all that you do? Are you a role model? Do you communicate effectively with others? Are your communications and actions appropriate? Do you treat others with respect and empathy, regardless of their level in the organization or their personal background? Are you the person you tell people you are? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then there is some inner work that needs to be done. It can be a lifelong practice.

In this new virtual world, has professionalism changed? If yes, for the better or worse? 

I wouldn’t say it is better or worse – just different. It is hard to read body language on a Zoom call. More people are working from their phones at times which can lead to shorter, more casual conversations when a situation calls for more formality. Everyone has gone through something this year and the need for Emotional Intelligence has increased. It’s important to be aware of a person’s emotional state of mind and to really listen to them to assess their needs. It can be easy to assume someone is checked out because they are not visible in a Zoom meeting, but that’s not always the case. Communication is the key to understanding. By now, most students and professionals should have a better understanding of how to interact professionally in a virtual environment. If not, Career Services is happy to provide assistance. We also have a number of presentations available 24/7 on our YouTube channel.

What is your advice if someone does not agree on a decision by their supervisor? What is the best professional approach in this situation? 

If your supervisor makes a decision that you do not agree with, it is always best to be direct and have a conversation with them about it. Do not talk about them to other colleagues. Do not immediately go over their head. Do not act in an insubordinate way. Do not quit. Many times, disagreements are caused by miscommunications or a lack of understanding. Open communication can help to ensure you understand why the decision was made. If the supervisor fell short in how they communicated the decision, they may be open to constructive feedback on how they could have elicited a more positive outcome. If you communicate openly and honestly with your supervisor in a professional way and it makes the situation worse, it is then appropriate to reach out to Human Resources for mediation. Allow Human Resources to involve the next level up if they feel it is warranted. 

Aviation is a close-knit community. How does the industry perceive individuals who have a reputation for unprofessionalism or unprofessional behavior? 

Regardless of industry, unprofessional behavior is not highly regarded in the workplace. But, considering how small aviation is, it is even more critical to conduct yourself in a professional way.

What final advice do you have for students/alumni to continue to always be professional in the workplace? 

You will never have the opportunity to make a second first impression. Before you embark on an internship or your first job out of college, make sure you truly understand what it means to be a professional and to demonstrate professionalism, especially in relation to communication and behavior. Ask yourself the questions above. As you start to know better, reflect on your past behaviors and how you may have handled situations differently. Strive to be the best version of yourself with the understanding that there is always room to learn and grow. Career Services is here to help you on your path.