Salisbury University Home - links to SU Home
A Maryland University of National Distinction image Career Services
Career Services Home Students Employers Alumni Faculty & Staff Parents Career Services Calendar

Dream It

Try It

Become It

Additional Resources

Social Media Dangers Workshops
Disability Info Gap Year
Career Connections Login Career Classes
Book Library Welcome Video
Career Services - Students

Professionalism Presentation

Survey- New Grads Lack Professionalism

College graduates still have a lot to learn about how to behave in the workplace.

More than a third of human resources professionals and business leaders feel that the majority of recent graduates fail to demonstrate professionalism in the workplace, according to a new survey from the Center for Professional Excellence at York College, Pennsylvania.

In fact, of the more than 400 professionals that the center surveyed, nearly a quarter believe that new graduates behave less professionally this year than last year.

According to the survey, the most common complaints that employers have with the professionalism of recent graduates are that they often fail to accept constructive criticism properly, have difficulty taking personal responsibility for their actions and perhaps most of all, they need to improve their Internet etiquette.

“Some of these problems in the workplace are the same things we are seeing in the classroom,” said David Polk, who runs the Polk Lepson Research Group, which conducted this study on behalf of the center. Students and employees alike are text messaging, surfing the Internet and responding to cell phone calls at inappropriate times.”

So if you want to be seen as professional at work, stop checking your Facebook account and start adapting to the feedback and criticisms that your bosses provide.

Beyond that, the survey found that employers believe recent graduates feel a stronger sense of entitlement today than they did five years ago.

“Entitlement, defined as expecting rewards without putting in the work or effort to merit the rewards, was the most cited reason (21.5%) for a decline in professionalism over the past five years,” the report found.

Overall, the study found that the vast majority of employers (96.3%) say the level of professionalism of a candidate influences whether they are hired. So the bottom line is that if you want to get a job and keep it, you’ll probably need to ditch these habits and remember that being professional means more than just tucking in your shirt.

Seth Fiegerman Credit Center

A study of employers nationwide conducted by York College of Pennsylvania revealed that today’s college graduates too often lack professionalism in the workplace.

More than 37 percent of the respondents reported that “less than half of the new graduates they hire exhibit professionalism in their first year on the job.”

The study suggests that colleges need to change how they prepare their students for the working world, particularly by reinforcing “soft skills,” such as honoring workplace etiquette and having a positive demeanor.

I believe colleges fall under three categories when it comes to professionalism: ignore, study, act.

It seems to me that some colleges choose to ignore professionalism. Forgive the oversimplification, but some colleges fail to put an emphasis on the qualities that make a graduate desirable to an employer. Qualities such as integrity, respect, attitude, personal conduct and appearance.

Professionalism matters. The study found that “50 percent or more of the hiring decision is based on an assessment of the applicant’s professionalism.”

The best way to become professional is to live it. If you want to be in business, you show up to work. If you want to be a professional, you dress like one. That’s why you’ll find that Central Penn’s students adhere to an attendance policy in which excessive absences affect their grades, and they wear suits, ties and business attire to class.

The most mentioned unprofessional traits in the York College study were, “Appearance, which includes attire, tattoos and piercings.”

Of course, we all know being professional is much more than just looking the part. It has everything to do with someone’s personal character and responsibility.

The college relies heavily on the business community when it comes to discussing and offering advice about the professionalism of our students. Along with advisory councils for each academic department, Central Penn recently formed a President’s Circle, which includes 28 local business leaders who have an interest in helping Central Penn students succeed. The latest two meetings have dealt specifically with gathering the opinions and suggestions of members regarding the professionalism of our students.

I am proud of Central Penn graduates, not just because 91.7 percent are working in their chosen field or continuing their education after graduation, but because they exhibit the professionalism that was instilled in them during their college days.

If all colleges and universities faithfully acted when it comes to professionalism, today’s young graduates would be far better prepared for their careers and York College’s next study might have different results.

Central Penn College
Todd Milano, President of Central Pennsylvania College


Tips for More Professional Behavior

According to the research done by York College, employers are looking for attention to appearance, ability to communicate respectfully and clearly, willingness to listen carefully and with attention, and the motivation to finish a task. And, while many employers appreciate the fact that many college graduates are tech savvy, they are less than impressed with the constant need for many to bury themselves in it, answering every text (sometimes during work hours and interviews). Here are some helpful hints for showing your professionalism:

1.  Dress for the job: Before you go into an interview, call and find out what sort of dress is    common at the office. During the interview, and after you get the job, make sure you dress appropriately, and pay attention to hygiene and personal grooming.
2.  Prepare: My husband is starting the job hunt as he finishes his Ph.D. Before he has an interview,  he reviews his resume, thinks of his strengths (and a couple weaknesses, and ways he can overcome them), and considers the points he wants to bring up about his qualification. Prepare for your job interview, and, when you do get a job, prepare to do your best each day.
3.  Finish your tasks: Make it a point to finish your tasks, and do them well. If you are working on a task that takes more time to finish, break it down into smaller tasks that can be accomplished daily. That way you can focus on doing your job, and have a way to show your boss that you are making progress.
4.  Keep personal problems…personal: There is no need to go into great detail about personal issues at work. Focus on your job.
5.  Communicate with respect: Listen carefully, and take constructive criticism as a way to improve your performance. When you speak with co-workers (and especially your bosses), avoid using  profanity and speaking as you would with your friends.
6.  Turn off the cell phone: Don’t text while you are working, unless it is business related. Put your personal phone on silent, and ignore non-emergency texts. Check and answer personal,  non-emergency text messages when you go on break. The same is true of personal email.

Our society has become much less formal in recent years. However, many employers desire a certain level of professionalism. If you want to get a good job, or even get a raise, it is vital that you conduct yourself in a professional manner, and learn how to interact with others in a way appropriate to the workplace.

Students can practice professionalism by:
turning in work on time
interacting politely with professors and students
paying attention in class (no texting)
not missing class unless they have a good reason, and coming to class on time
not making excuses, and taking responsibility for poor work or missed deadlines
not doing as little as possible to get a decent grade
not complaining that the work is too hard or too much

An opinion piece by President George Waldner, which appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 21, offers some professionalism tips to the Class of 2010.

Dear class of 2010: Put on a tie, will you? Today's college grads are remarkably unprofessional.

Freshly minted college graduates will soon flood the job market looking for employment and internships. Research suggests some will fail to land jobs - or to keep them - for an often overlooked reason: inadequate professionalism.

York College's Center for Professional Excellence recently commissioned a national survey on the state of professionalism among recent graduates of American colleges. The results were an unpleasant surprise: They indicated that many college grads are getting failing grades in professionalism.

I hope this year's college graduates can use some of what we learned to find and keep meaningful employment in this challenging job market. Here is some advice:

√  Be professional regardless of your job. The nationwide survey of 520 human-resources professionals and business leaders concluded that employees don't need to be in a specific field - such as accounting or engineering - to be considered professionals. In fact, 88 percent of respondents said professionalism is a quality of the person, not the field. Anybody in any position should exhibit professional traits and behavior.

√  Accept responsibility. We asked respondents what qualities recent college graduates should possess. They said it's especially important that they accept personal responsibility for their decisions and actions. Why should an employer hire anyone who won't?

Other qualities deemed important included competence in verbal and written communication, projection of a positive image, and independent thought and action.

√  Don't worry about immediate promotion. The most eye-opening answers came when we asked what qualities respondents found most often in first-year, college-educated employees. They were asked to rank these traits on a scale from one to five, with one being "rare" and five being "common."

The only quality that scored higher than a four was concern about advancement. While this is a valid issue for seasoned workers, it should not be a top concern among new hires.

√  Clean yourself up. Our survey found that six traits were often ascribed to unprofessional employees. The one mentioned most was sloppy appearance or dress.

Other unprofessional qualities included poor communication skills, poor work ethic, bad attitude, and a sense of entitlement.

√  You are not entitled. The survey also asked if newly employed, college-educated workers' sense of entitlement had increased, decreased, or stayed the same over the past five years. Entitlement - defined as expecting rewards without putting in the effort to merit them - is perceived as being on the rise.


 Directions | Hours | Mobile Site Dream It ▪ Try It ▪ Become It