You probably know that it's important to be professional if you want to have a successful career, but what does that actually mean? After all, professionalism is rarely taught; you're supposed to pick it up on your own through a combination of observation and osmosis, but that's not always easy to do. And learning on the job can be fraught with land mines, since you might not even see your mistakes coming.
So without further ado, here are 10 key elements of professionalism that you should master early in your career.
1. Pay attention to the cultural norms in your organization, and follow them. If you watch how others in your office operate, you'll learn all sorts of important things about "how we do things here." For instance, you might observe that everyone shows up precisely on time for meetings, that they modulate their voices when others are on the phone, and that people rely on email for non-urgent questions. These are important signals for what will be expected of your own behavior – and you'll come across as tone-deaf if you ignore them.
2. Be pleasant and polite to people, even if you don't like them.You will have to work with people whom you just don't care for, and even with people who aren't very nice. You'll look far more professional if you don't let them get under your skin and instead remain cordial and easy to work with.
3. Take work seriously. If you make a mistake or something doesn't go well, don't brush it off or use cavalier responses like "my bad." Accept responsibility for your part in what went wrong. Part of taking work seriously leads to…