Being professional, regardless of what industry you work in, is crucial to your success. I know I may not an expert on the whole situation, but even I'm aware that professionalism is something quite important and if you don't have it, it could jeopardise your future career.
It's not difficult to do and most of it is common sense, but if you don't do those little things, they not only affect your own reputation but also reflects on the reputation of your company.
So first things first:
Dress appropriately. Say you have a big interview coming up, it's with ... I don't know ... A vice president of a plastic-bottle making factory. Do you: A) Dress in a short skirt, heels and a face full of make-up. B) Jeans, casual t-shirt and a hap-hazard hair-do, or C) Smart clothes such as black trousers and a shirt with a neat and clean appearance. I know it sounds patronising but it's practically common knowledge. I got told that if you're going for an interview, dress super smart. The worst it can do is make you look too keen, and let's face it, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If someone walks in, in a suit, notepad poised and looking approachable and efficient then that is, more often than not, how you will be in the interview. It's all about making a good first impression, regardless of who it is and what it's for. You're representing yourself and the organisation you work for so be positive with your dress-code.
Communication. This is a huge huge huge - I can't emphasise how much huge - huge important point when it comes down to professionalism. Countless lectures have told me how crucial it is to have good communication between your colleagues, your bosses and most importantly your clients. If you're running late, tell them as soon as you can. If you're ill, again inform them as early as possible. Turning up late creates a bad impression. Not turning up at all with no notice, well that's just plain rude. If you know something that could affect the meeting that you have planned, or anything that could be of interest to whoever you're communicating with, TELL THEM. What's the point in holding it back? You will never solve anything if you don't talk to people, so make sure you have the relevant emails and telephone numbers, and make sure you have back-ups just in case. Good communication is just good practice.
Catty-Behaviour. Ah, the bitching between colleagues, friends, even family! Yes, it happens. But you must be careful who you decide to "bitch" too. Bad-mouthing a colleague to a client is not on. It makes you look unprofessional for reasons that should be obvious to be honest! Do you really think that the client would say "Oh wow! I loved that insight in to that company, I'm definitely going to use them again because they seem like a really good team!" Er... No. If you did that, you'd be painting a picture of "I'm not a team player", "The people I work with are idiots", "I hate my job ... therefore the company". It's one thing apologising for mistakes that have been made, but certainly don't put the blame on someone else - even if it wasn't you. Handle it gracefully, make a general apology and leave it at that. The client expects you to do the job they're paying you for, or not in some cases but you know what I'm getting at. They don't care who's lazy and who came in work drunk this morning, they care about the quality of the work or the quality of the company they're communicating with.
Do what you signed up to do. What is the point in accepting a job when you're not going to do that job? You're there for a reason, you're there for a purpose. Try not to let your personal life (which I know can sometimes be difficult) or other reasons affect that. At the end of the day, you're lucky to have a job and you should want to keep it. Regardless of who is slacking off, make sure you don't. You'll come out being the professional one and making the most for the company you work at as well as improving your reputation. Showing a little initiative or a little motivation and enthusiasm can do wonders! By all means have fun with what you're doing, but know your purpose.
I think what professionalism ultimately comes down to is pride. It's the pride you have in yourself and the pride you have working for your company. Your body language, attitude and general work ethic is down to how you feel when you work and to be professional it's all about putting away negativity and other distractions and just getting on with your job. Ideally, you should enjoy it. And therefore that enjoyment will be reflected in your work output and in your attitude but professionalism really is important. As I said before, if you do a bad job just that one time, it can really affect your reputation. So be good, be fair and above all, be professional out there.