Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Professionalism: Doing What Works
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


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


One 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.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.


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.



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


  • Flip chart/board
  • Student copies of Handout One: Job Skills
Handout 1
Job Skills

Instructional Procedure(s):

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.

  • Ask them to brainstorm as a group about what skills and qualities they would want their new employee to have.
  • 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...
  • 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.”
  • 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 fof themselves: "Strengths" and "Needs Improvement."
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Distribute and discuss Handout One: Job Skills.
  • 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.
  • In guiding the students about communication skills, be sure to emphasize that the exact job and situation is less important than the skills and qualities demonstrated. Every employee, regardless of their specific job, will have to communicate with others and handle interpersonal problems.


Youth Voice:

Have youth compose a poem, drawing, or collage using the words from their strengths list. Instruct them to start out with the phrase “I am...” and work from there. Any craft materials available can be used for this project. Their works can be displayed for other youth, families, and/or public viewing.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Social Studies: Have students make a brief list of the businesses in their neighborhoods or surrounding area. Instruct them to make a visit to at least three different businesses and observe how employees are dressed, how they behave, etc. They should try to include at least one nonprofit and on fro-profit organization. The students should make notes about their observations, and be prepared to comment in class.

Reflection: (click to view)


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Job Skills


What do employers really look for before hiring someone?
Ever wonder what skills and qualities employers want you to possess before they hire you? The good news is, it’s all stuff that you can work on! When you equip yourself with the skills that employers look for, you can land the job that’s right for you!
Why should I care about being ready for the workplace?
Being workplace ready increases your chances of landing, keeping and moving ahead in a job.
“I like to have leaders on my team. I am looking for a leader who is confident,  empowering, hands on, takes initiative!  I always believed that leadership is a key attribute of one’s personality since it empowers, motivates and organizes people to achieve a common objective and provides moral guidance. Effective leadership provides stimulation, inspiration and information!”
— Eran Sinai,President, CEO, GHI Construction
When interviewing for a job, remember to dress, speak, and act like someone who has the position you are interviewing for. When I interview applicants, I look for people who are highly skilled in the area for which they are interviewing and who are:
1. Articulate. Use proper grammar and avoid slang or inappropriate language.
2. Knowledgeable about my company. Take a little time to research the place you are interviewing at. Most companies have web sites filled with important facts. Think of 2-3 questions about the company related to what you learn. It shows you have a curiosity about where you want to work.
3. At ease during the interview. Practice in advance. Think about what questions you might be asked and rehearse your answers. Since you may be nervous during the interview, this practice will help calm you during the discussion.
4. Real. Don’t be fake. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t because it will show. Also, make eye contact. The person interviewing you is genuinely curious about what you have to say. They wouldn’t have taken the time to meet with you if they didn’t have some level of interest in you.
5. Positive. Smile. People spend a large portion of their day at work. Therefore, they want to be surrounded by interesting, happy people. The person interviewing you is not only evaluating your job skills, he or she is also considering whether or not you are someone they would want to spend a lot of time with. Happy, upbeat people do far better in interviews than sad, sarcastic, or timid people.
- Wiley Blevins, Vice President, Editorial Director
In the table, give examples of how you can improve your workplace readiness skills.

Some workplace readiness skills/qualities are...
This skills/quality means...
To help me improve this skill I can…
Oral Communication Skills
clear and accurate expression of spoken information
Written Communication Skills
use of correct grammar, clear presentation of written information
Interpersonal Skills
“team player”, ready to cooperate
Personal Qualities
promptness, leadership, positivity, responsibility, honesty, respect, hard worker
Other Basic Skills
use of basic technology, e.g. word processing software, email, and the Internet

“The qualities and skills that I look for when hiring will depend on the position, but I would expect that most positions would be looking for someone who can influence others, drive for results, be a team player, and analyze and solve for complex business problems by presenting recommendations or solutions.”
— Barb Mahnen, Learning and Leadership Development Manager, Bank of America.

Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Be the Change: Workplace Readiness Summary


Resume and Cover Letter Tips
Hitting the Pavement and Sealing the Deal
Professionalism: Doing What Works

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