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Professionalism: 10 Tips for Students on the Job Hunt

By Meghan Kuhr
Broad Student Writer

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a multinational professional services firm, came to the Lear Corporation Career Services Center to talk to students about how to master professionalism. Here are their top 10 tips on how to do just that:

Choose 6 words that represent you, both professionally and personally

Developing your personal brand is important in order to describe yourself. Creating a strong reputation will make you memorable. Remember, each interaction you have with others can create a lasting impression. Be consistent and clear. This will give people a memorable viewpoint of who you are. Your brand is a promise of your value, your uniqueness, and your authenticity.PWC staff member sits with a student at Broad in training session

Choose words like dependable, knowledgeable, goal-oriented, good learner, determined, flexible, organized, self-motivated, and collaborative to describe you professionally.

Choose words like adventurous, easy-going, optimistic, loyal, personable, out-going, friendly, open-minded, and creative to describe you personally.

Make a good first impression

It takes seven seconds for a person to make a first impression of you. Make those seven seconds count because a first impression goes a long way. It is what someone references when they think of you, so making that reference point positive is especially important for networking. It can make or break a relationship. That is why you must walk into that interview confident with your brand.

Be aware of your manner

You’re not going to get that job if you’re slouching and yawning, if you’re fidgeting and stuttering, or if you’re stiff and monotone.

Be aware of your body language. Sit up straight, but not like you’re tied to a post. If you have sweaty palms, wipe them on your pant leg before shaking someone’s hand. Don’t stare too hard. It’s okay to blink and look away sometimes, like you do in normal conversations.

Be comfortable, yet collected. It is important you keep it as natural as possible. That way, you’ll be at ease, as will others interacting with you. It shows you’re human. We’re not robots.

Always be respectful

Respect plays a role in every aspect of professionalism.

Pay attention to your attire. Dress nicely.

Don’t use too much jargon or slang.

Give firm handshakes, not knuckle breakers. Give the same handshake you would give to a male as a female and vice versa.

All of these things show you care and that you respect those around you.


It is the most valuable thing you can do. Smiling is easy, yet incredibly hard in professional settings. We often forget to smile when we’re nervous or focusing too much. This is why acting too serious can make you seem harsh and unapproachable. Smiling puts everybody in the conversation at ease. It makes you more comfortable as well as them. A client will talk to you more easily and an employer will feel they can work with you, if you smile.

Be conservative with food and drink when with other professionals

Attending dinners and networking events is a part of professionalism.

When going out with a client or interviewer to eat, be conscious of what you order. Ask questions like, “Have you been to this place before? What would you recommend?” or “What do you usually get?” Since the person who extends the invitation customarily pays, it is respectful to order conservatively. Never order anything more expensive than what they’re ordering. Get medium-price food and drinks. If you’re unsure of what to order, let them order first.

If you’re out on a lunch, don’t order alcoholic drink. However, if you are at a dinner and the other person orders a drink, or if you’re in a group and everyone is ordering a drink, go for it. Just don’t go overboard, especially if you know you’re a lightweight. It’s all about mutual respect and upholding your brand.

Know conversation is important

Make sure the food you order is compatible with conversation. You want to be able to easily eat and converse. Stay away from messy foods like pasta or wings. Order finger food instead. When you’re not eating, you’re conversing.

Topics of conversation you can use are people’s backgrounds, popular culture, and media events. In general, avoid heavy and controversial topics and work-related topics. People don’t typically want to talk about work outside of work.

Keep up to date on the news

It is unofficially part of your job to keep up with the news. Know what’s happening around you. Read the top news stories every morning. Download a news app, like CNN, for easy and convenient updates.

Be a team player

Every job you will have requires teamwork. It’s important to know how to adjust to different people and maximize your time with them to be efficient.

Be sociable

Having good social skills sets you apart. Employers look for someone who can work well with others and has the ability to learn from them. It’s all about being comfortable with others, especially new people. Be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Make small talk. Converse about the news, recent events, even your personal life, though not too much about your personal life. The point is to create ease by setting a tone. Start the conversation with phrases like, “How was your weekend?” or “Did you catch that game?” It’s tougher to get information from someone if you’re not social.


Your brand is all you have. You must protect that. Show that interviewer or recruiter that you know your stuff. Be professional. Be personable. Aim for personable professionalism. Build your brand around that. Incorporate your best qualities both in and out of the office. Give them the best of both worlds.

Eli Broad College of Business

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