Introduction to Professional

Representing Yourself and Your Organization in a Business-Like Manner

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Being professional is simultaneously the most important and the least important competency of business communication. This may sound strange—and impossible—at first. But it’s true.

Think about applying for a job. If you submit a résumé filled with typos, chances are you won’t be contacted for an interview, regardless of your qualifications. At the same time, you can have an impeccable résumé, but still be overlooked for a job if you don’t meet the company’s expectations—like not having enough years of experience or a particular certification. In this way, your professionalism is far less important than the skills and experience that make up the substance of your resume.

This most important–least important contradiction applies to all business communication, whether you are preparing emails, letters, reports, social media posts, slide decks, or any other kind of business document. Ultimately, the substance of your messages will be the deciding factor of whether you meet your goals. But if you turn off your receivers with unprofessionalism, they will never read or listen long enough to get to the substance.

This is because professionalism serves a gatekeeping function. That is, your receivers are going to determine whether to pay attention to your message based on how professional it is. If it is professional, they’ll read it or listen to it because you appear (at least on the surface) to be competent and trustworthy. If it is not, they will likely disregard it—whether it’s because the message is discourteous, sloppy, or “just doesn’t look right.” And obviously, you need your receiver to pay attention to your message if you are going to achieve any of your instrumental goals.

Professionalism is also important for establishing, building, and maintaining business relationships. Whether you are writing a report to your manager or instructions to your employee, professionalism signals respect for your receiver. When you present a carefully worded, professionally formatted report to your manager, he or she might think, “Look at the time and effort put into this document. This employee clearly respects me.” Similarly, when you send instructions to your employees that are courteous and careful in tone, they might think, “Our manager respects us and values the work that we do.”

Professionalism plays a role building your own reputation, too. How you communicate is a reflection of you. So when you communicate professionally, your bosses, coworkers, employees, and customers will be more likely to think of you of as an overall competent professional. Because you also represent your organization (or department, committee, club) when you communicate, you will build its credibility as well.

There are “Three C’s” of being professional in business communication: courtesy, which is using a polite, conscientious, and civil tone; care, which is paying attention to details to ensure there are no mistakes; and conventionality, which is following business norms and standards (sometimes called “conventions”). In this chapter, you will learn more about each “C” and get specific strategies for how to infuse professionalism into the messages you compose.



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Business Communication: Five Core Competencies Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Lucas, Jacob D. Rawlins, and Jenna Haugen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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