Top tips for advancing your professionalism at work
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Top tips for advancing your professionalism at work

by Freya Lucas

May 05, 2023

Having professional presentation and behaving in a professional manner is a core aspect of getting ahead in any career path, including early childhood education and care (ECEC). 


While the results of your work with children and families is the most integral part of advancing in your ECEC career, you’re much more likely to move “up the ladder” more quickly if those who are decision makers and leaders can easily imagine you in a higher position. 


In the piece below we explore some of the consistent habits and mannerisms that can support you to display “professionalism”, some of the qualities which make you stand out to your employer as a star on the rise, and some inside hints and tips which can enhance professionalism. 


Courteous calls 


The way in which you interact with others on the phone, either verbally or via text message, is a major component of professional perception. 


A couple of examples of good ways in which to answer the phone include “Hello, Jane Smith speaking” or “Aubrey here, how can I help?”


A brief but friendly and informative greeting creates a positive impression for the caller. Your optimistic, helpful tone is also likely to lead to a better conversation. 


This is helpful at every level from answering the phone in the rooms through to answering the phone to recruiters.


Watch the clock


Being on time for all work commitments is an important aspect of appearing professional. Someone who is often late for meetings, who misses deadlines, or who arrives after their shift has started is memorable – for all the wrong reasons. 


Punctuality is a sign of good time management, a great trait in more senior positions. A failure to be punctual – or, if lateness is unavoidable, to communicate – is a sign of poor time management, and therefore a signal that time management may be an issue. 


Organisation helps


Organisation is a core aspect of appearing professional. Having a resume ready to go, being easily able to locate key documents needed for employment, and keeping a close eye on when things are due shows an employer that you are someone who will make their life easier, not harder. 


A lack of organisation, conversely, can show up as mistakes, or struggling to be able to do simple things quickly and well. 


Reliability at the ready


Being reliable, consistent and having a reputation for being ‘steady’ is an asset when it comes to being viewed as a professional. 


Typically people who are viewed as professional are known for being dependable. If you’re asked to do something, you will do it, and can be trusted to complete the job or task, on time and to a high standard. 


Reliability is also about consistency – the quality of your work mostly being the same, so that the people you are working with know what to expect.




People who are known for their professionalism are typically also known for being excellent communicators. When interacting with many others – families, coworkers, children, and external stakeholders – those ECEC employees who can be clear, confident and concise communicators will go a long way. 


Good communication also means being a good listener, writing in an easily understandable way, and being predictable. In an ECEC context, this means choosing your words to suit your audience – you may shift up your language and tone when moving from speaking with an authorised officer familiar with the laws and regulations to a trainee who is new to the sector. 


Email communication counts here too. When composing an email, putting effort into clear subject lines, direct actions to be taken, and avoiding extra conversation not necessary for getting the message across. 


Accepting accountability


Life happens. Mistakes are made, deadlines are missed. Being professional isn’t about being perfect and living in a land of no mistakes, but it IS about communicating – when things are going well, but especially when they are not. 


Accepting responsibility for getting things done, and then being accountable if things don’t go to plan is a hallmark of professionalism. 


The flipside – avoiding accountability – is an almost certain path to looking unprofessional. No-one likes being around someone who constantly puts up excuses for their failings, and hiding mistakes can often mean that problems “snowball” into something bigger. 


Asking for help when things aren’t going to plan, owning up to any errors, and being open to working on a solution will cement your reputation as a professional. 


Professional and positive


Having a positive attitude goes hand in hand with being resilient. Refusing to be defeated by small challenges, and showing positivity gives energy to those around you, and role models to others how to keep “pushing through” when challenges are presented. 


Aim to be realistic but upbeat, and be open to multiple perspectives and potential solutions. 


Be ready to take charge


Being willing to take on new opportunities and to take the lead when the chance presents itself – even if it feels uncomfortable – shows others in your organisation that you’re someone who’s ready to move forward, and who takes their role seriously. 


Leadership can look like taking the initiative to not only identify a problem, but also to propose a solution. Volunteering for extra challenges gives a chance to enhance your leadership skills and also to build your professional reputation. 


These are just some of the many ways in which you can enhance your professional image. 


For further support, ACECQA have prepared some case studies and other resources to support ECEC sector employees to reflect on professionalism. Early Childhood Australia also has a selection of resources to support professional development in this space

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