Survey- New Grads Lack Professionalism
College graduates still have a lot to learn about how to behave in the
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.
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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
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
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
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
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
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
● 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
● not complaining that the work is too hard or
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
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
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
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
√ 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.