Professionalism: Doing What Works

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will learn what it means to be "professional" in various workplace environments and will continue to prepare to seek employment.

PrintOne Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify qualities employers seek in prospective employees.
  • analyze behavior that may--or may not--be appropriate in the workplace.
  • identify specific strategies to improve their own workplace readiness.
  • practice appropriate skills and behavior based on possible workplace scenarios.
  • Flip chart/board
  • Student copies of Handout One: Job Skills

career: a job or series of jobs over time; usually means a person can move to a higher level of income and/or position over time

manager: person who oversees the daily functioning of a business; usually takes care of tasks such as hiring employees, handling customer problems, and making the weekly schedule

professionalism: the qualities and behavior that are expected in the workplace

workplace: where a person works; can include any location work is done, even if it is outdoors or away from the usual place of business


Ask the students to look at their personal lists of strengths and areas that need improvement. Have them focus on the areas they need improvement, and choose one quality that is personally important to them. Ask them to think about activities or behaviors that might show these qualities in small or unexpected ways - no example is too small. Encourage them to see their strengths in activities they do every day. Sometimes, even negative activities utilize positive qualities. Young people are often resourceful, determined, organized, and quick-thinking--the task is for them to see these qualities and use them toward positive goals. For example: Meeting a friend at the corner every day is a way of being reliable. Checking the locks on the door at night is a way of being responsible and thorough. Nodding and saying “what’s up” to classmates is a way of being friendly. Ask youth if they were aware that they had these qualities. Do they think they can use these qualities to help them succeed? How can they improve on what they’re already doing?


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the students to name their favorite local retail stores. Now ask them to imagine that they are the owner of one of those stores. Tell them that they are responsible for hiring a new employee in the store.

  2. Ask them to brainstorm as a group about what skills and qualities they would want their new employee to have.

  3. Provide leading scenarios to help generate ideas: “Your employee will need to open the store at 7:00 AM every day...” “Your employee will have to count the money at the end of every shift...” “Your employee will greet and assist customers...” “When customers come in who aren’t happy, your employee will need to deal with them...

  4. ”Write their responses in a display area. Make a list of “do” and “don’t behaviors (Do: dress neatly; be polite; be on time. Don’t: wear dirty clothes; swear; be late.) From these lists, create a list of words and phrases that suggest desirable characteristics such as: neat, polite, friendly, cooperative, good communication skills, reliable, responsible, honest, etc. Try to rephrase negative statements as positive traits. For example: “Not late” could be phrased as “punctual” or “on time”; “doesn’t swear” could be phrased as “uses appropriate language.” Tell youth that these skills and qualities are what we mean when we talk about “professionalism.”

  5. Ask students to consider which of the skills and characteristics on the list they possess, and which ones they may need to develop or improve on. Allow time for them to copy the characteristics into two lists of themselves: "Strengths" and "Needs Improvement."

  6. For the “Strengths” list, ask youth to give one example of how they exhibit that characteristic in their lives. (For example: Responsible: I watch my younger siblings while my mom goes to work; Reliable: I take out the garbage every day on my way to school; Cooperative: I helped with the group activity in class.)

  7. For the “Needs Improvement” list, help students brainstorm as a group about specific ways they can develop or strengthen different qualities. Suggestions include: Making lists of tasks that need to be completed (reliability); setting alarm clocks or other reminders prior to scheduled activities (punctuality); getting clothing ready the day before to be sure it is clean and in good condition (neatness). Have each student choose one suggestion to practice for the next week. Remind them that it should be specific and easy to implement. Tell youth to be prepared to report back on their progress at the next class session.

  8. Ask students what qualities and behaviors might be more or less important in different kinds of jobs. Is it more important for a teacher or a transit worker to have good writing skills? Is it more important for a lawyer or a construction worker to have a neat appearance? What kind of job might be best suited to someone who has writing and teaching strengths? What would youth most need to improve to have the job they really want?

  9. Distribute and discuss Handout One: Job Skills.

  10. No matter what job a person has, they need to have good communication skills. Have the students role-play that they are employees or customers of a store. Have them greet one another in their assigned roles. Increase the complexity of the customer-employee role play to address different scenarios. Add different elements and ask youth how they would need to respond differently. Ask them to consider what skills and qualities would be used in each scenario.

    • A customer comes up to the counter and says they are not happy with their purchase, and...
      • They politely ask for a refund.
      • They are really angry and speaking rudely when they ask for their refund.
      • They already used the product, and the return policy is for “unused merchandise.”
      • The manager is not in the store, and you can’t make a refund without him/her.
Cross Curriculum 

Encourage the students to share their newly learned job skills by planning and hosting a Job Skills Workshop for their peers at school or at a public place such as the local library. Have students make fliers and posters to advertise the workshop. Have the students make a copy of their resume in which they remove all identifying information. Compile a collection of class resumes and use their own resumes as examples to teach others. Have them prepare a list of interview tips, including “do” and “don’t” lists in their own words. They should also prepare a few mock interview skits based on their own experiences with the role-play interviews (or with the interviews with employers invited to the classroom). If workshops are not possible, the “do” and “don’t” interview tips can be made into bookmarks for the school library, with references to employment-related resources and websites.


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 02. Careers In The Nonprofit Sector
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Explore requirements and motivations for a career in the civil society sector.