Perfecting Professionalism: Using College Before Joining the Workforce

Lauren Johnson

Office Space
Office Space

Too many times employers have accused today’s college graduates of lacking professionalism. Many superiors state that we do not communicate correctly, we’re habitually tardy, and we socialize in the workplace too much, which is distracting. Funny enough, they have a terms for doing it right: employability skills or soft skills. Having employability skills mean that you possess work ethic, which includes timeliness, attendance, and a great attitude. And your current career as a college student builds those skills for future interactions in a professional atmosphere. Students should use college to practice the professional attributes expected in the majority of workplaces.

Communication Skills

Communication is key. Especially when engaging in email etiquette. Your professor, much like your future boss, gets several dozen emails per day. This means you should keep your emails short and concise. Don’t address your emails with “Hey.” Greet your professor with professionalism, spell they’re name correctly, and use punctuation. You should always triple-check your grammar and wording. This does not mean relying only on spell check. Before hitting send, read and reread your email in its entirety to ensure it’s not too wordy and that it makes sense. Your professor should not have to reread your email to decipher its meaning. And of course, do not forget to frequently check your email account for a response as you may need to reply back.


Instructors expect you to arrive on time, and be prepared. When you are late, especially on a consistent basis, this tells them that you do not respect the professor’s schedule. It also shows that you are unorganized, and that you really don’t care who you inconvenience. Tardiness is a bad habit, and it should be one that you break before joining the workforce, because your future employer will not likely be as lenient or tolerable of it. So, do your best to get to your engagements on time.

Organizational Skills

Often times our instructors give us details and instructions to test our ability to listen or pay attention. An employer will expect the same of you upon hiring. So, start listening to your professor and organize yourself accordingly. Most professors will have taken the time to prepare students with written instruction on all major assignments. Before beginning an assignment, you should read your notes and any details the instructor has provided. Also, it’s appropriate to organize your thoughts before starting an assignment. After reading the course materials, process what you have learned and perhaps write down a quick summary of what is expected of you. Checklists are great, especially if the assignment requires many steps. This will ensure that you complete the assignment fully and correctly. Employers expect you to have organizational skills, so developing them during college is a priority.

Electronic Device Usage

With so many distractions, such as social media, texting, emailing, and so forth, it is hard to stay focused in a classroom. But just as your professor asks that you put phones, laptops and any other personal devices away during class, your future employer will likely also require the same during work hours. Unless you have specific circumstances in which you need your phone constantly near you, please put your device out of sight. Doing so will lessen the risk of distraction and will also show how much you respect not only your professor, but your future employer as well.

These suggestions are only the beginning of gaining professionalism in the workplace. It is essential to habitually practice the art of communicating, reading and organizing yourself in order to do a job well done. This goes for the classroom as well as the office.


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