Learning goals: 

  1. To recognise the key dimensions of professionalism and the importance of appropriate workplace behaviours and attitudes.
  2. To prepare students for practical placements and to assist them to make the most out of the placements as learning opportunities.

Stage of study: 

In the early stages of a student’s program, particularly prior to students embarking on an internship or placement.

Key messages:

  • Being professional is important because it shows your employer, your colleagues and your clients/customers/patients that you take your job seriously, and that you respect your organisation and the people with whom you work. It may also affect the way external people view your organisation which may impact on its success.
  • Professionalism covers four key areas of workplace behaviours and attitudes: attire, punctuality, language, and working with other people.
  • Unprofessional behaviour can often be quite subtle. Often behaviours that are acceptable in a particular profession or organisation are not acceptable in another.
  • Placements, internships, and part time work are a great opportunity for you to learn about and 'practise' workplace behaviours and get a taste for the field you wish to enter. If you perform well, then these placements can often lead to a job after graduation. Use these opportunities to learn as much as possible about the field and use your new experiences, and the challenges that come with them, to develop your employability.

Instructional videos:

Exploring professionalism - (6:07 mins)

Employer insights: professionalism - part two - (4:07 mins)

Internships and placements: Pre-professional practice - (5:37 mins)

Making the most out of placements: Employer insights - (4:16 mins)

Discussion questions:

  1. What kinds of unprofessional behaviours have you witnessed or done yourself?
  2. Claire Walker uses an expletive in the second employer video: Was this appropriate and/or should the course team have removed it?
  3. What role does context play in determining if a behaviour is professional or unprofessional? 
  4. How should you prepare for placement?
  5. What are the benefits of placements or internships?

Extension activity:

The subtleties of professionalism: see Resource 9.1. This is an activity where students have the opportunity to debate whether or not a behaviour is unprofessional, using a scale rating.

Further information:

More information including activities and additional videos can be found in:

Topic 9: Workplace behaviours and attitudes
Topic 10: Pre-professional practice