Professionalism: Everyday Examples

Posted In: Soft Skills
Posted On: 9/3/2015

I first met Mike MacDonnell through his Jane Knows inquiry.  At the time he was with Warren Tech in Arvada and he wanted to collaborate on the topic of soft skills.  As a result of that meeting, I had the pleasure of going to the Arvada campus in August and presenting to two sections of aspiring medical professionals.  Mike’s enthusiasm towards soft skills has me even more convinced that this is an area badly needed in the educational system today.  What follows is Mike’s observations on how professionalism impacts day-to-day transactions. -Jane 

I believe the overall level of professionalism within an organization can contribute greatly to its success or downfall.  We all know when we experience a level of professionalism that aligns with our expectations, and we also definitely know when it is incongruent with our expectations.  Two recent experiences come to mind for me.  The first was when I was making a purchase at an office supply store.  The cashier greeted me, asked if I found everything I was looking for, and thanked me for coming into the store.  His presence was welcoming, friendly, and respectful.  He was extremely conscientious and I felt valued as a customer.  I would say he demonstrated a very high level of professionalism by his conduct. My second experience a day later was at a grocery store, and as I approached the cashier he did not say a word to me, nor did he respond to me verbally when I asked him a question.  He just completed the task that was associated with the question I asked without saying a word.  His overall demeanor was unwelcoming and I felt like I was intruding on his time by being a customer. 

These experiences caused me to reflect upon the concept of professionalism and what does it actually mean.  The word “professionalism” is a term that is thrown around so readily we might think that everyone could agree on one exact meaning.  When first hearing the word “professionalism”, our intuition may be to associate it to a concept that is reserved for those who are seen as occupational professionals such as doctors, lawyers, or business executives.  However, saying that professionalism is simply a characteristic of a certain profession does a great disservice to all the individuals working hard to professionally represent their companies to the best of their abilities.   This means every single one of us working for any type of organization is going to be held to some standard of professionalism by the public that is either stated or unstated.  We need to have a clear understanding of the ethical and technical standards of the company we represent to be able to enhance the professional culture of that organization.  A problem arises if our standard of professionalism is not congruent with the organization that we represent, or when our expectations of professionalism are not met when we are a customer of a particular business.  

As noted above, I had two customer service experiences with opposite outcomes.  The first one represented respect and value and the second one represented indifference and apathy.  With the second experience, there was definitely a disconnect between the employee’s actions and what I believe are reasonable expectations of customer service.  I distinctly remember what I was thinking as I left the office supply store from my first encounter.  I thought about how the cashier was probably making $9.00 an hour and I had just received a level of professionalism that far exceeded the majority of my experiences at many doctors’ offices. I often wonder if the level of professionalism we associate with an experience is a function of training, attitude, motivation, pay, or possibly hiring practices.  Hard to say, but I do know we usually have only one chance to make a first impression, and the level of professionalism that is associated with an initial experience determines the overall value someone feels from that experience.  

Mike MacDonnell


Westlake Middle School