Being a Professional

10 October, 2008 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

I consider myself as a “professional”, but I got to thinking about what that entails – what does “professionalism” mean?

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary gives this (helpful) definition: ‘the competence or skill expected of a professional.’ The definition of a professional is: ‘a person having impressive competence in a particular activity.’

Fair enough, but this doesn’t begin to describe what I think the term encompasses.

I think that, apart from having a competence, professionalism is largely about your attitude to the work you do and the people you work with.

As a professional, every piece of work I deliver should be done to the best of my ability. This view can apply in all aspects of one’s life, not just at work. For instance, I belong to an amateur drama group, but every production is done to a professional standard. No aspect of the play, whether acting, direction, lighting, sound, costume or stage set is “good enough”: it is always of the highest possible quality, given constraints of budget, skills available and time. Everyone in the group works to that standard – which is why we consistently win awards!

When working with people, whether customers or colleagues, my overriding attitude is respect. I expect them to be as professional as I strive to be, and in my experience most people live up to or even exceed my expectations. Several years ago, my manager at the time said he thought I am a humanist, by which he meant that I believe in the inherent “goodness” of human beings. At the time I hadn’t thought in those terms, but he was right in his perception. Professionalism, for me, involves dealing ethically and fairly with all the people I come into contact with, being open, honest, polite and tactful, and behaving with the degree of formality suited to the level and length of our business relationship.

Another important aspect is how you represent the organisation you work for to the outside world, and how you talk about your competitors. It is unprofessional to discuss shortcomings in your own organisation, and to criticise or ridicule other organisations in your particular field. Comparing how they do things with your own organisation’s methods, and highlighting the advantages of the latter, shows respect for them whilst still presenting your organisation in the best light.

For me, professionalism means taking a pride in my work, acknowledging excellence and showing respect for the work of others, and treating people the way I would wish to be treated.

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