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Mastering the Art of Professionalism in Today’s World

Cropped portrait of a young man standing with a tablet in the office

By Quin Jackson
Advertising and Public Relations Major, College of Fine Arts and Production

According to the Association for Psychological Science, it only takes as little as one-tenth of a second to form a first impression of someone. Therefore, it is vital for business people to present themselves in a professional manner. Here are some guidelines to make the most of what little time you have when introducing yourself, and words put to the unspoken law of what acting, dressing and speaking professionally looks like:

How to Dress Professionally

What is acceptable to wear in a professional setting is a gray area for many people and businesses. Princeton University breaks it down for aspiring professionals all across America, and defines exactly what “professional dress” and “business casual” entails.

When dressing professionally, men can expect this to mean a suit and tie, while women would wear either a pantsuit or an appropriate dress. Neutral colors are encouraged, and open-toed shoes are not recommended.

Business casual, on the other hand, is not as strict of a dress code. In most “business casual” situations, men will wear dress pants, collared shirts and a belt. Women can wear slacks, or a relaxed dress or skirt, but nothing more than an inch or two above the knee. Blouses must be appropriate, and conservative footwear is suitable. Make note of what your coworkers and supervisors are wearing and observe what has been deemed acceptable and appropriate. Remember, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed!

How to Speak Professionally

What would you do if the key to speaking more confidently and professionally, as well as being taken more seriously, could all be attained through just one tip? You would take it! So here it is: Remove all filler words from your vocabulary. For those who don’t know, filler words are words or phrases that people use in between thoughts that have no inherent meaning, such as, “um,” “uh” and “like.” As you refrain from relying on these words, watch yourself transform into a more professional speaker.

How to Act Professionally

Although first impressions are initially based off your dress and speech, or really anything that can be recognized within the first few seconds of introduction, your actions contribute a lot to how others view you in the long run. A professional is a respected individual and maybe even someone who would be considered as a leader in the workplace.

For example, a great first step to exemplifying the same characteristics that are found in leaders would be to follow office rules and set an example for other employees. Show up on time, and work diligently and well with others. Your supervisors might start giving you more responsibilities, while your coworkers will instinctively look to you for advice and instructions. Altogether, you will be viewed as more of a professional, leading to greater personal success as well as the success of your company.

Our goal here at Grand Canyon University is to provide you with resources across campus that help enrich both the student experience and campus life. For more information, visit our website or click the Request More Information button at the top of the page.


  • Wargo, E. “How Many Seconds to a First Impression?” Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved from psychologicalscience.org/observer/how-many-seconds-to-a-first-impression#.WFvw71PyuCh
  • “What to Wear: ‘Professional’ vs. ‘Business Casual.’” Career Services at Princeton University. Retrieved from careerservices.princeton.edu/node/1279
About Quin Jackson
Marketing Major, Lead Digital Copywriter for GCU Blogs

Quin Jackson is currently a sophomore at Grand Canyon University studying marketing with a minor in communication. She is from Cleveland, Ohio although she was born in Kansas and also lived in Virginia for a period of time. Quin loved her freshman year at GCU, and feels very excited and blessed to be in her second year. She is also newly involved on leadership in Local Outreach on GCU’s campus, serving on the Habitat for Humanity team. In her free time, Quin enjoys being with her friends and visiting all the sights to see out West, from the beaches of San Diego to the beautiful rock formations in Zion, Utah.

Read more about Quin