Professor talking to students

Whether you are in a volunteer, work-study, summer position or heading into your first job after graduation, you will want to make the best impression possible. This will increase opportunities for advancement, a good reference, and the ability to build a strong network. It can be difficult to know what your employer expects from you on a day-to-day basis, but there’s a certain code of behaviour that’s expected by most employers. Here are some of the key tips to ensure you’re demonstrating professionalism on the job.

Managing Relationships

  • Be clear on what your supervisor expects from you by checking how they would like to be updated on the progress of your work.
  • Remember that constructive feedback given by your supervisor or co-workers is an opportunity for learning.


  • Demonstrate respect for your colleagues by refraining from swearing, and using any language that would be considered offensive or discriminatory. Strive to be inclusive in your language.
  • Practice being tactful and diplomatic when dealing with conflicted situations, or where you are privy to confidential and/or private conversations. 
  • This is also true in your written communication. Refrain from practices like addressing someone with "hey..." in an email - "hi" and "hello" are still friendly, and more courteous.

Virtual Meetings

  • Use a professional background image, or if not using one, make sure that your room is clean, tidy, and not too "busy" looking.
  • Manage background noise by ensuring your household is aware that you are in a meeting, and use headphones to protect the confidentiality of the meeting if you are not working behind a closed door.
  • An intermittent internet signal is frustrating for others when you're in a meeting; if you can, direct wire your connection. If that's not doable, make sure your signal is as strong as possible.
  • Practice good body language; this means having good eye contact by looking at your camera and not the monitor, and remembering to smile.

Time Management

  • Arrive to work five minutes early to get yourself settled. Notify your supervisor if you are unable to get to work or if you will be late. Arriving early or on time for work sends a message that you respect the work you’ve been given responsibility to complete.
  • Take initiative and don’t wait for your supervisor to give you another task after you have completed a project; they will value your willingness to take initiative. 
  • Make sure you’re a productive employee by setting priorities and creating action plans to meet deadlines. 
  • Ask your supervisor for help and direction on their priorities if you find yourself overwhelmed and/or with the inability to finish assigned work projects or tasks on time.

Dress Code

  • Check with your supervisor about the dress code before you begin your job. Even if there is no dress code in place and people tend to dress casually, it is a good idea to dress modestly, and to avoid wearing clothing with any slogans or graphics that might be seen as controversial. Make sure that your clothes are clean and not too wrinkly.

Focusing on the Job

  • Ask about the company practice on wearing earphones and listening to music when in-person, unless you know for certain that this is an acceptable practice; some may see this practice as being inattentive to the task at hand.
  • Use your personal cell phone only for important and short calls or texts, because it takes your focus away from your work unless your work is based on your phone.
  • Show that you’re engaged in meetings by taking notes and asking relevant questions.