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Professionalism is the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize a professional person. This concept comprises a number of different attributes such as responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence. Failure to conduct oneself professionally at work may lead to dire consequences in one’s career. This essay analyses several unprofessional behaviors of the protagonist in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) and shows how she can actually ameliorate the situation by a more professional approach. The movie sets in a magazine office named Runway with the main character, Andrea Sachs, taking the job of personal assistant to the editor-in-chief.
To begin with, specialized knowledge is a key attribute of professionalism, which is not seen in Andrea at the beginning of her career. As Emily – the first assistant – says in the movie, “Runway is a fashion magazine, so interest in fashion is crucial.” However, Andrea’s initial performance does not exhibit any expertise in fashion. She has never heard of Miranda Priestly, a prominent figure in the industry; she does not know how to spell Gabbana and has no idea what a run-through is. Mastery of specialized knowledge plays a vital role in maintaining a professional image (Mind Tools). In order to achieve success, professionals need to acquire a stable core of knowledge in their field and constantly keep such knowledge up-to-date. In this sense, Andrea falls short of professional workplace expectations. The situation could be improved if she spent a fair amount of time researching to gain a proper understanding of fashion before entering this billion-dollar industry.
In addition, on the very first day at work, Andrea does not comply with the professional dress code for her job. She wears a wrinkled old jacket, and her unruly hair shows a lack of care for her personal appearance. The next day is not any better. A blue woolen sweater and a knee-length checked skirt are acceptable to some extent, yet considering Andrea’s working environment, it seems utterly inappropriate. One of the core values in workplace professionalism is appropriate attire. According to Heathfield (2015) – a human resources expert, the dressing standard for a formal business environment is “a suit, a jacket and pants or a skirt, or a dress paired with appropriate accessories.” Pressed and unwrinkled clothing is compulsory. To judge from these rules, Andrea obviously has misconducted herself professionally at work by failing to follow the formal dress code. One way to redeem herself is to adhere to formal dress code guidelines and try to satisfy the clothing requirements of such a prestigious fashion magazine.
Moreover, Andrea’s lack of accountability is another manifestation of her unprofessionalism in the workplace. When she does not manage to fulfil Miranda’s order and gets scolded, she starts to complain about her efforts going unacknowledged. It is Nigel, the magazine’s designer, who enlightens Andrea and convinces her to admit to her mistake in the job. Professionals hold themselves accountable for every action that they carry out at work, especially their mistakes (Small Business). The concept of accountability refers to the ability to acknowledge mistakes and try to find solutions to rectify the situation instead of whining or blaming other colleagues. In Andrea’s case, she should have confessed to her incompetence and made every possible attempt to fix her misconduct.
To conclude, specialized knowledge, formal dress code and accountability are three important attributes of professionalism that are missing in the protagonist of “The Devil Wears Prada” on her first days at work. Building a professional image is a daunting task which takes both time and efforts. It is, therefore, recommended that young workers begin to make professionalism a habit and concentrate on improving their own performance at work in order to go a long way on their career path.
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