Professional Image & Etiquette: What is Professionalism

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Professional Image & Etiquette: What Is Professionalism

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Table of Contents

  • Specialized Knowledge
  • Competency
    Honesty and Integrity
    Respect and Self-Regulation
  • What is image?
  • What is etiquette?
  • Works cited

It is essential to be professional if you want to succeed. What does it mean to be professional? For some, being professional could mean dressing smartly at work or doing a good job. For others, being professional means having advanced degrees or earning certifications. Professionalism covers much more and encompasses a number of attributes. What are these attributes?

Specialized Knowledge

Professionals are known for having worked in a serious and sustained way and mastering the specialized knowledge and skills required to succeed in their fields. They are committed to improving their skills; and, where appropriate, they have earned the required degree or certification. They keep themselves up-to-date so they can continue to deliver the best work possible.

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Professionals get the job done. They are reliable and keep their promises. If circumstances arise that prevent them from delivering on their promise, they manage expectations up front and do their best to make the situation right.

Honesty and Integrity

Professionals value honesty and integrity. They keep their word and can be trusted. They will do the right thing even if it means taking the road less traveled.


Professionals know they are accountable for their thoughts, words and actions.

Respect and Self-Regulation

Professionals show genuine respect for the people around them, and handle themselves well under pressure. Not only must a professional exhibit these attributes, they must also look the part and act the part.

What is image?

Image is how you are perceived. Each time you meet someone, they will consciously and subconsciously evaluate you. They will notice your grooming, your clothing and your accessories. They will notice how you carry yourself. Every aspect of how you appear is pieced together to form an image of you.

To be truly in control of your life and career, you need to take your professional image seriously and do what you can to make it work for you. A good professional image not only gives you more confidence, it helps you present yourself as a competent professional.

What is etiquette?

Etiquette is a set of rules that vary from culture to culture and dictate how to interact in a civilized manner. The term emerged around the time of Louis XIV, the French king associated with converting a hunting lodge into the Palace of Versailles. According to legend, a gardener asked the king to establish rules regarding who could traipse around the palace grounds and when. Louis responded by having his aides issue a daily ticket, or “etiquette” in French. The tickets were distributed to select members of the royal court. Each ticket included a listing of royal events and a description of the expected attire. Over time, the tickets evolved to include various rules on correct behavior. For example, a ticket might specify how low to bow when the king approached.

While etiquette and manners involve rules of behavior, they are slightly different. There is another story that can illustrate the difference between the two. At the end of a dinner hosted by Queen Victoria in honor of an African chieftain, each guest was presented with finger bowls. Unfamiliar with fingerbowl etiquette, the chieftain lifted the bowl, raised it to his mouth, and drank the contents — down to the last drop. There was breathless silence in the hall. Queen Victoria gracefully lifted her finger bowl and drank its contents. Soon, all the guests followed the queen’s lead. Rather than follow a rule of etiquette, the queen exhibited good manners possible. She wittingly and gracefully ensured her guest would feel comfortable and at ease. Etiquette pertains to specific rules of conduct, while manners are basic behavioral guidelines. Manners lay the groundwork for the rules of etiquette. Aside from learning general rules about how to behave at a dinner table, you could study dining etiquette to know which silverware to use. Practicing good manners marks someone as polite, while executing proper etiquette implies the person is civilized and cultured. Manners are usually taught at a very young age and become second nature, while etiquette requires diligent training and consistent practice. Both etiquette and manners rely on basic principles which include being aware of one’s actions, treating people with respect, being sensitive to others, and making them feel comfortable. The practice of both is very important. Employers, for example, are more likely to be impressed by well-mannered applicants who are familiar with proper etiquette. As a student trainee or new professional, you will be called to demonstrate a working knowledge of etiquette even before you enter the workforce. Job interviews give you the opportunity to show that you possess the skills for a particular position. But skills are not the only thing employers look for. In fact, most employers are ready to offer on-the-job training. Employers take careful note of attitude, politeness and propriety.

Works cited

  1. Anderson, K. (2019). Professionalism: Skills for workplace success. Cengage Learning.
  2. Ballard, R., & Seibold, D. (2015). Professionalism: Skills for workplace success (4th ed.). Pearson.
  3. Lytle, R. (2020). The Power of Professionalism: The Seven Mind-Sets That Drive Performance and Build Trust. Wiley.
  4. Schaufeli, W. B., & Bakker, A. B. (2004). Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: A multi-sample study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25(3), 293-315.
  5. Guffey, M. E., Loewy, D., & Almonte, R. (2020). Essentials of business communication (12th ed.). Cengage Learning.
  6. Bovee, C. L., Thill, J. V., & Schatzman, B. (2019). Business communication today (15th ed.). Pearson.
  7. Pachter, B. (2013). The essentials of business etiquette: How to greet, eat, and tweet your way to success. McGraw-Hill Education.
  8. Post, P., Post, P. A., & Post, E. L. (2017). Emily Post's etiquette (19th ed.). HarperCollins.
  9. Axtell, R. E. (2017). Do's and taboos of using English around the world: A guide to etiquette and communication customs. John Wiley & Sons.
  10. Martin, J. S. (2014). The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace. Potter Style.

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