Keeping it professional when you’re stressed

Keeping it professional while stressed or trying to keep it together.

Because I am a gosh darn professional!

Anyone who has seen the 2001 film The Wedding Planner probably can recall that hilarious (edited) line. Frustrated, blindsided, and incredibly angry, J.Lo’s character is trying to keep her personal drama from affecting the one thing she truly loves in life — her job.

JLo keeping it professional while stressed

Life gets messy

We are human. Sometimes your personal life spills into your professional life (and sometimes you’re barely holding on, keeping everything together). It is increasingly hard to determine where your personal and professional lives separate. There will be occasional personal drama and catastrophes that interfere with your ability to get your work done. The opposite is also true: school and work often change up your personal plans, and as MBA ladies we have to just roll with it.

As an MBA and woman in business, you (I assume) are no stranger to feeling overwhelmed and juggling more than one thing at a time (flexing those time management skills, as you do). Also, you frequently may find yourself in group settings. But juggling all you have going on and working with others on a daily basis leave little time to take a moment and gather your thoughts. How do you decompress after a stressful conference call? How can you ensure that you come across as composed and poised after chasing your slacker of a classmate to submit their PowerPoint slides (hours before your huge presentation)? How do you keep it together 100% of the time?

No one totally has it together

The answer to that is simple: no one keeps it together 100% of the time. But some people just make you think: Seriously? What are you on?!*

This is where the idea of professionalism comes along. It may not be an MBA core class, but it could be – easily. One move can make or break a career (okay, maybe not but stay with us). Professionalism, while there seems to be a number of definitions out there, is more than business etiquette. Business etiquette is what; professionalism is how.

Sometimes I get emails from people who:

1) email me with “(no subject)” in the subject line

2) ask me for the same information they previously requested (more than once), when a simple search of their inbox would reveal emails I have already sent to answer this question

3) make unrealistic, last-minute demands (Please research these 17 topics and gather a boatload of information so I can meet with this person in 30 minutes… okay, I may be paraphrasing, but someone once said, “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”)

…You get the idea. Not outrageously wrong, but not very professional, and they leave me thinking: really? or, you’re not serious.

Keeping it professional in business school

Professionalism is not this mysterious special topic to “nail down” in order to be successful, but we need to understand the concept. It is a combination of attitude, consideration and yes, business etiquette (includes things like presentation, dress, etc…). Here are two articles I think give some good points on the topic from and AllBusiness.

When you set out with a group to accomplish a school assignment or project from your boss, enter with a good attitude (and open mind), show some consideration for the opinions and ideas of others, and follow the basic business etiquette you have learned in school, at work, possibly through this blog, and elsewhere. Professionalism might be something that becomes more natural as you practice it more and more, but unless you actively work on it, it will not happen.

It’s mostly common sense, but it goes far

This is starting to sound like some mythical concept, but in reality, professionalism is mostly common sense, and can help you in your academic career, job search, career development and more. Even if you do not possess the skills or know-how for the next stage, you might be brought in to a company or new opportunity because of your willingness to learn, and your professional conduct (I’ve seen this happen too many times to count!).

We want to hear from you. What are some things that showcase professionalism (things that you or someone else did), and of course, what are some things you have seen or experienced that showed you a complete and utter lack of professionalism? I did not waste time compiling a list of Do’s and Don’t’s when there are plenty online, but please comment with your questions or suggestions. Also, if you want to discuss this in a post and share some articles you’ve found useful, come join us and write for MBAchic.

Have a great week- the weekend is almost here!


* There is a funny SNL clip HERE. Watch Kelly Ripa “explain” what helps her get through her busy day (it’s a parody).

{ Photo credit : }

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  1. Good point on #3.
    I’m a stickler for timeliness. I understand if 5 minutes, you’re caught up in something, we all lose track of time. But, when it’s 15 past 2 and we were supposed to meet at 1:45, you’re basically telling me that your time is more valuable than mine.

    1. I hear you – that’s a great point. Respecting another person’s time is SUPER important. Thank you for your comment!

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