In honor of April as Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, I think it is important to discuss ways to avoid workplace conflict in the first place.

Of course, sometimes conflict is inevitable. Stuff happens. But there are ways to minimize the likelihood of conflicts. If workers take responsibility to act professionally, conflicts are much less likely.

So, what does it mean to be a professional? How do you act like a professional if you’ve never had a professional experience? Or how do you determine what it means to be a professional in a new career field or industry? Here are 8 tips to consider as you move into the workforce, whether you are soon graduating and looking for full-time work, taking on a part-time or full-time job while you finish school, or starting an internship. Professionalism is central in order to make a positive impression on your co-workers and supervisors. Then, those people will become a helpful part of your network as your progress in your career.

Professional Tip 1: Be enthusiastic and passionate about the work.

No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t care about what they do. One way to show respect for your co-workers is through the interest and excitement you bring to the work that goes on in the industry.

Professional Tip 2: Keep learning and wanting to learn from others and on your own.

You will be seen as a professional if you exhibit the qualities of a lifelong learner, if you keeping developing yourself, and if you truly want to learn from all those around you. A little initiative goes a long way toward professionalism.

Professional Tip 3: Be humble.

Although you needed to exhibit your confidence to get the job and maintain that confidence to become a vital and engaged part of the team, stay in touch with your humility. Understand everyone starts somewhere, and we all have a long way to go.

Professional Tip 4: Be an agent for change.

Fresh ideas and creative solutions to problems are welcome in the professional world. Don’t complain when something isn’t working, offer a potential way to fix it. Your co-workers will thank you!

Professional Tip 5: Help others.

Does the office fridge need cleaning? Does the printer cartridge need to be changed? Then do it! Small acts of kindness show a sense of responsibility for the workplace as a shared venture. Everyone wants to feel like all members are pulling their weight.

Professional Tip 6: Be flexible.

Change happens; it’s inevitable. So roll with it! Your co-workers and supervisors will appreciate your adaptability to new conditions.

Professional Tip 7: Show up on time and work really hard!

People will be impressed with your professionalism if you take your work seriously, focus only on work related activities in the workplace (no personal distractions), and arrive early and stay late. This doesn’t mean become a workaholic; it’s important to maintain balance with your work and your home life, but devote the time needed to do your job really well. If that means coming in a half hour early to prepare for a meeting or working one evening to get a project done on a deadline, do it.

Professional Tip 8: Be honest.

Finally, when you are having any kind of workplace difficulty with a co-worker or a supervisor, the most professional way to deal with the situation is to respectfully tell them. If you need to, go through the proper channels – talking to a mentor or supervisor when you’re unsure how to handle the situation. Professional people are honest and transparent while being respectful.

As you move into professional positions and work to grow as a professional, these tips will help you avoid workplace conflict and, when conflict arises, handle it constructively. Although these tips sound simple, they are difficult to do every day, and workers who are consistently professional stand out. If we all want a little more peace in the working world this month, it would be a good idea to remind ourselves how to be a professional.

We interviewed Sara Vizcaino, the Human Resources Manager  from PacificSource about recruiting at OSU. Here is what she had to say:

1. Tell us about your company and why you recruit OSU students.

PacificSource Health Plans is a health plan that provides medical, dental, vision, and pharmacy insurance coverage to groups and individuals. But, we’re not a typical health plan – we’re an independent, not-for-profit health plan with a 78-year history. Our mission is to help people get the healthcare they need. What sets us apart from our competitors is that we focus on providing exceptional service to our members. We also invest in the communities we serve by partnering with local providers to deliver high quality, accessible healthcare, and through charitable giving and personal involvement with non-profit organizations. PacificSource has offices in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Montana with close to 600 employees.

PacificSource enjoys our relationship with Oregon State University and we are always impressed with the caliber of students at OSU. Last summer we hired 7 summer interns and 4 of them were from OSU. We were on campus in October for the Career Fairs and the EECS-MIME Senior Dinner. At those events we had the opportunity to talk with a number of students – both about careers after college as well as summer internships. It is always exciting to speak with students about their preparations to get work experience through an internship or about taking that first step in a career after graduation.

2. What is your favorite part of your job?

I am a member of the Human Resources team and feel lucky to get to do the work that I love to do for a company like PacificSource!  I have been here since moving to OR nearly 6 years ago and, in that time, I have been able to learn and grow in my role. There is a lot about my job that I really enjoy, but my favorite part is working with candidates as they apply for jobs with PacificSource, interview, and get hired. In fact, last week a former summer intern was hired and started working as a full-time member of our Actuarial team!  It was great to work with her again and help her transition into her employment as she kicks off her actuarial career!

I also really appreciate getting to do my work AND getting the opportunity to be involved in our community. I’m involved in raising money for Relay for Life and United Way as well as with our Community Garden. Our Community Garden has about 40 employees that plant, grow, and harvest vegetables and we donate about 100 lbs of veggies per week during the growing season to a local food pantry. It is pretty amazing to work for a health insurance company that wants to make a difference in our communities and being able to get involved personally. Over the past 2 years, our Garden has donated approximately 2 tons of produce to families in need! That is something I feel really proud of.

3. How do you find people you want to hire and what makes them stand out from others?

All organizations have a culture – sort of like how we each have our own personality. The culture at PacificSource is built on strong customer service and building positive relationships. We strive to improve the communities we serve and encourage a healthy work-life balance. When we look for candidates, finding individuals that fit our culture is a very important part of the recruiting process. Certainly finding candidates that have the technical experience or abilities is necessary, but it isn’t everything.

We look for candidates through a variety of sources including college career fairs, online job postings, social media avenues, networking events, and even virtual career fairs. PacificSource is growing and will have approximately 40 new positions to fill in 2012!  That means we’ll be busy looking for the right candidates that can do the job and fit in and really excel within the PacificSource culture.

4. What do you recommend students do in college so that they are ready when it comes time to find a job?

It’s hard to find the balance between everything in college – but I don’t need to tell you that!  You have to focus on school and do well in your classes, but that isn’t everything. Part of figuring out what career or industry is right for you is about trying things out. So, part-time work experience or summer internships can really help you learn more about what you enjoy (and don’t enjoy!) doing. Also, going to different campus events or joining different groups can give you information about a career or industry that you had never heard of before, but that might be a great fit for you. So, try things on for size to see what fits you best. Also, research companies that you have interest in. If possible, connect with them through social media to learn more, watch job openings, and set up profiles on their online career centers.

Thanks to Sara for her great insight and for taking the time to do a post for the Career Beavers Blog!

Tell us about your company and why you recruit OSU students.
We are the world’s second largest food company with annual revenues of $48 billion. Millions of times a day, in more than 160 countries, consumers reach for their favorite Kraft Foods brands. We make a delicious difference by fighting hunger and supporting healthy lifestyles. Over the past 25 years, we’ve donated nearly a billion dollars in cash and food. Our company is a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Standard & Poor’s 500, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and Ethibel Sustainability Index.

OSU offers premier Engineering and Food Science programs. We’ve seen many double and triple majors, including a coupling of IE and ME which is valuable in a manufacturing environment. Students tell us that OSU makes it very feasible to obtain a dual focus. Many students also elect a concentration or minor option to enhance their studies. OSU students partake in a multitude of developmental opportunities that prepare them for a smooth transition into the workplace. These include internships and co-ops such as MECOP, involvement in student groups, community programs, etc.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Talent Planning. One of the most important contributions of the HR business partner is gauging long-term needs and then planning appropriately to ensure the company’s competitiveness and sustainability. This entails attracting and retaining candidates with the knowledge, skills and abilities required to meet strategic goals.

How do you find people you want to hire and what makes them stand out from others?
We often find the people we want to hire through a number of our on-campus activities, referrals, and at many diversity and pre-professional conferences.  Ideally, we hire into our experiential learning programs (internships, co-ops, etc) to evaluate performance and fit, before converting students into fulltime employees upon graduation.

What do you recommend students do in college so that they are ready when it comes time to find a job?
1) Academic achievement.  2) Involvement in Clubs & Activities. 3) Demonstrate Leadership. 4) Gain as much experience you can relative to your area of study: internship, labs, volunteering, job shadows, etc. 5) Build a network: professionals, faculty, alumni, professional organizations, peers, mentors.  6) Write a great resume.  7) Master the art of the interview & follow-up.  8) Learn about companies in your field.   9) Meet representatives from the companies you are most interested in.

Posted by Sarah Scaruto, Associate HR Manager from Kraft Foods