How to Demonstrate Professionalism/Work Ethic on Your Resume

Dana Guterman
Updated: August 11, 2023

After reading this article, you’ll:

  • Recognize the importance of professionalism and work ethic, especially for new college hires, and why these traits are paramount in building a successful career.
  • Learn practical ways to showcase professionalism and work ethic on your resume through specific examples, action verbs, and relevant experiences.
  • Understand the value of quantifying accomplishments and using real-world experiences from internships, volunteer roles, and extracurricular activities to demonstrate these sought-after competencies.

Professionalism and having a strong work ethic are at the heart of being a good hire. Sure, it’s great to be able to code or speak another language or do trigonometry, but if you’re not a true professional, you won’t be successful. Because of this, many internship and job descriptions include “professionalism” and/or “work ethic” as must-have qualifications.

For new college hires, it’s especially important to have a personal drive to succeed and a great attitude at the office. In fact, according to NACE’s Job Outlook 2019 survey, professionalism/work ethic is one of the four competencies that employers value most. The other three are critical thinking/problem solving, teamwork/collaboration, and oral/written communication.

With these four traits, you’re poised to succeed in the workplace. But how do you prove to potential employers that you’re the consummate professional? In this article, we’ll show you how to demonstrate your professionalism and work ethic on your resume.

You can read about how to demonstrate other essential resume skills in the guides below:


What is professionalism/work ethic?

Having professionalism and a strong work ethic means that you strive to be a responsible and effective employee, who values excellence in terms of conduct, integrity, and attitude.

Professionalism and work ethic encompass a variety of traits that speak to an individual’s positive work habits and upright character. These include but are not limited to time management, productivity, responsibility, teamwork, effective communication, a customer-first mindset, and a good attitude. If you’re a true professional, you dress the part and have successful work habits and a great outlook. You value good work for the sake of good work.


Why is it important for college hires to have professionalism and a strong work ethic?

When a company extends an offer to a new person, they’re always taking a chance. And when it’s a college student or recent graduate, with little workplace experience, it’s even more of a gamble. However, if they hire someone with professionalism and a strong work ethic, that person is far more likely to flourish in their new role. Why? Because they already have the core attributes of a successful worker.

First, new hires with these attributes save the company and its people time, energy, and money. That’s because those with a strong work ethic don’t need to be pushed to work faster or smarter. They already value doing a good job and working hard. They’re capable and eager to learn. So, they meet deadlines, arrive on time to meetings, prioritize tasks, and complete projects efficiently—no micromanagement needed.

Second, professionals are great to work with. They’re good communicators, who take accountability for their own work and actions and learn from mistakes. They ask questions and seek feedback to improve. Above all else, they treat others with respect and never hesitate to lend a helping hand when needed. When the going gets tough, employees with professionalism step up with a smile on their faces.

Because professionalism and a strong work ethic are such broad categories, they are frequently seen in many different roles and sectors. However, roles in finance, law, the military, and start-ups place a particular emphasis on professionalism and work ethic.


Examples of communication skills

A lot of different qualities and skills fall under professionalism and work ethic. This means that employers look for professional candidates by searching their resumes for a variety of other keywords. To find these, look at the skills listed as “Requirements” or “Preferences” in the job posting. You can read more about relevant resume skills here.

For work ethic and professionalism, other key skills or qualities include:

  • Punctuality
  • Organization
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Respect
  • Collaboration
  • Efficiency
  • Positive attitude
  • Integrity
  • Reliability
  • Accountability
  • Drive to succeed
  • Initiative

You can use all these terms to highlight your professionalism/work ethic throughout your resume and cover letter.


Example resume bullets that highlight professionalism and work ethic

So very many job descriptions emphasize professionalism and/or work ethic. As a result, you’ll definitely want to include keywords related to these areas in your resume and/or cover letter. But you can’t just list “professional with a strong work ethic” under your contact information. Instead, you need to include specific examples of when you demonstrated your amazing professionalism and work ethic in the past. To get past the ATS (applicant tracking system) and impress the hiring manager, try to incorporate the keywords themselves as well as past examples.

To demonstrate these competencies, focus on past experiences where you took the initiative, streamlined processes, or went beyond the call of duty. You can use examples from extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, or previous internships. Volunteer experience is particularly effective here, since it speaks your desire to do good work for its own sake. Additionally, consider experiences in which you brought people together to boost productivity and morale. You can also mention examples of when you were trusted with confidential or sensitive information.

All in all, you want to prove that you have a history of workplace excellence and dedication.

Example 1: Marketing internship

Kylo’s Cafe, Marketing Intern
Portland, ME, Summer 2019

  • Spearheaded and implemented campaign to market local family restaurant at tourist locations, including botanical gardens, lighthouses, and regional museums/airports.
  • Collaborated with graphic designer on suite of marketing materials, including new website, targeted social media marketing campaign, and print ads.
  • Restaurant reported a 28% increase in customers after placement of marketing materials.

The action verbs used by this marketing intern prove that they’re a true professional with a strong work ethic. They “spearheaded” a campaign, which shows they take the initiative. Additionally, they “collaborated” with a designer, which proves they aren’t afraid to ask for help. Finally, their work ethic led to a tangible positive outcome for the restaurant: more customers.

Example 2: Resume summary

Organized and driven recent communication graduate with 3.9 GPA and experience in planning and executing nonprofit and special events. Proven record of success in driving volunteer engagement; increased volunteer applications by 32% during part-time volunteer coordinator role. Detail-oriented, personable, and calm under pressure.

This is the way to do a professional resume summary. It hits tons of keywords and includes numbers to quantify the applicant’s impact and skill. Who wouldn’t want this person planning their event?

Example 3: Extracurricular activities

XYZ College Student Association, Vice President
Miami, FL (May 2017–May 2019)

  • Organized and executed “Make It Count” effort to get more students involved in school policies and programs.
  • Campaign led to 27% increase in meeting attendance and achievement of free lunches for all low-income students.

 Elephants Ever After, Volunteer
Miami, FL (June 2018)

  • Raised over $2,500 for the Elephant Walk 2018, annual fundraising walk to benefit elephant conservation efforts, to be number four fundraiser out of 300+ participants.

 Red Cross, First Aid Certification (Aug 2019)

Because all extracurricular activities are “optional,” they immediately show that you take the initiative, so they’re a great way to prove your work ethic. Focus on activities that showcase your ability to take on leadership roles, build relationships, and add value for others. This candidate does all three by sharing three different experiences, all of which demonstrate professionalism and work ethic.