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How to Be Professional Under Pressure

One of the most common soft skills requested by clients and touted by candidate CVs is ‘keeping calm under pressure’, so, inspired by Tom Hiddleston’s recent turn in The Night Manager we wondered whether workplace professionalism means being – and looking – cool as a cucumber.

1. What does professionalism mean to you?

We associate the word ‘professional’ with being a doctor or lawyer, say, but being professional means being good at what you do – whatever the role.

Essentially being professional means maintaining your expertise and keeping up-to-date with your sector.Tweet:Being professional means maintaining your expertise and keeping up-to-date with your sector. @Angel_HR_UK #QAngel
If someone asks you something you don’t know, offer to find the answer – ‘I don’t know’ is not professional, it’s your teenage brother telling your mum why he kicked the dog.

2. Is being professional also an attitude?

Yes, definitely. You can be good on paper, but in reality you need appear professional – for starters.

In short: Professionals look the part.Tweet:Professionals look the part. @Angel_HR_UK #QAngel
There’s usually a dress code for a workplace. Stick to it or even better dress for the job you want, as they say. And, they say it for a reason…

3. Is professionalism just how you appear to others?

No way. Impressions count – we know that. But integrity is key to real respect as a professional person.Tweet:But integrity is key to real respect as a professional person. @Angel_HR_UK #QAngel
Remember what happened to Richard E Grant in How to Get Ahead in Advertising? Basically his bad head took over and he became the baddest ad exec going – oh, and his wife left him.

Do your job well and be a trusted member of the team.

A real professional keeps their promises – to their employer, their clients and perhaps most of all to themselves.

4. How does professionalism work in a team?

Professionalism is really tied up with good self management. Be respectful of your co-workers – even if you don’t agree with them – there’s never any excuse for bad mouthing or rudeness.

Everyone has a right to be heard and no question is a stupid question – professionals put team members at ease whether they’re leading or on the flanks.

5. What screams ‘unprofessional’ to you?

Well, there’s a lot you could say here. But one of them is ‘late’. Being late for work or meetings or with projects is detrimental to the business, your team and yourself.

Ultimately, if you’re late for a meeting with clients it’s inconsiderate and rude.Tweet:Ultimately, if you’re late for a meeting with clients it’s inconsiderate and rude. @Angel_HR_UK #QAngel
Plus, you’re likely to be rushed and unprepared.

6. Tell us more about preparation…

Have you ever been to the GP and they don’t know your medical history – probably because they’re overworked and not had a minute to check it out? – how does that make you feel? Not that great, right?

So, as well as knowing your subject, which we mentioned earlier, a professional knows what’s going on at the meeting, or what’s on the menu that day. It makes clients feel valued. It makes you look like you care. And, it’ll probably make you pretty popular.

7. What about your personal life?

Professionalism means leaving your personal life at the door – at least the more disruptive elements of it, like your loud mobile phone voice.

Just recently the The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that a firm that read a worker’s messenger chats sent while he was at work was within its rights, for example, so know your workplace rules and adhere to them.

8. So you should keep your emotions in check too?

Ever seen an episode of Mary Queen of Shops where a failing retail outlet is manned by staff who shout at customers when they bring something back?!

Whether it’s a client or a colleague ideally you should never lose your cool at work – whether that’s shouting or crying.

But some jobs can be truly emotionally demanding, for example, Dr Gail Kinman a professor of occupational health psychology co-authored a book specifically aimed at social workers to help develop resilience, improve their wellbeing and thus the service.

If you do a stressful job or you know you’re prone to stress then make sure you put things in place to help yourself.

Although it’s not always the worst thing in the world to show vulnerability, you don’t want to undermine yourself by falling apart in front of the wrong person – that’ll only make you feel worse than before!

[Check out our previous tips on developing Emotional Intelligence (or EI) here]

9. So what if I’ve got a burning complaint to get off my chest?

If you’re conscientious and passionate about your work then you’re likely to come up against situations where you’re asked to work within certain constraints which may mean compromise.

So, if there’s a time where you need to speak up to voice a concern, do it positively. Always come from a solutions-based approach.

People are much more likely to respond positively to you and to see you as an asset to the team if you’re a problem-solver – plus it highlights your professionalism, doesn’t it?

10. Any last words on professionalism?

Yes. Communicate clearly. Respond to clients – updating them if you don’t have a definitive answer yet. Answer the phone appropriately, not just with ‘yes’.

There’s a lot of little things which come together to create the whole professional package!Tweet:There’s a lot of little things which come together to create the whole professional package! @Angel_HR_UK #QAngel
And, all this goes for job hunting too by the way! If a candidate exudes professionalism it’s going to be so much easier to place them!

Now over to you:

Have any thoughts on what you’ve read? What exudes professionalism or unprofessionalism to you? Got any burning questions we could put to future Q & Angel guests? As ever, we want to hear what you’ve got to say!

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