Being ‘professional’ may mean two different things to people. The first could be related to how you present yourself and how attractive you look. The second is beyond attractiveness, and relates to moralities and qualities such as reliability, performance, punctuality etc. A true professional will say both attributes are equally essential to be a professional.
Hence I will be writing a series of articles for teens and youngsters who are vying to be professionals in the future and who are eagerly waiting to gain acceptance of a successful professional.
The dictionary definitions 'professional' as "...A person who is engaging in an activity as means of a livelihood… A person who extremely competent in a job... A person who conducts his business in a field also pursued by amateurs...” or “A person who engages in an activity with great competence..."
But is competence enough in isolation? I would say definitely no. Making yourself approachable and reasonable, and respecting other people is important. Ensuring that you present yourself in a business-like manner, whether in person, on the telephone, or in writing, is essential. Turning up for an important business meeting with your favorite editor in torn jeans and dirty shoes is just sloppy. Being lazy and blaming lack of time or the pressure of other commitments is definitely not professional. These constraints should not stop you making sure that you always project a businesslike appearance.
Perhaps the most vital aspect of being ‘a professional’ is knowing your subject from A to Z. Which means, do your homework and know exactly what you are talking about in your professional life. Telling people about your academic qualifications and letters you use after your name which shows the amount of degrees you possess may seems easy and handy, but being found out in a half-truth or bluff will lead instantly to a loss of credibility, putting in jeopardy your professional relationships while also compromising your integrity.
Looking to be a true professional is also part of ‘the professional image’. To create a professional image, ensure you always wear clean and appropriate clothing, paying attention to grooming and personal cleanliness. A positive first impression is always helpful for the success of a professional.
Being reasonable, and fair, is important, but it can be difficult if you are the only one doing it. The talent of handling such situations also comes with being a professional.
Being professional does not mean letting other people take advantage of you. Sometimes you may not be able to say what you would like, and holding your tongue and biting back certain comments may be difficult.
To sum up, it would seem that being categorized as professional means showing you have that rarest of commodities, common sense, and then, actually using it. Another major part is being adult, being considerate towards other people, and demonstrating self-control. No-one said it was easy, but it is definitely something worth striving for if you wish to be seen as a true professional, in a sea of amateurs.
(Thanks to Erica Armstrong)Published on Youth Mirror - Daily Mirror (19 August 2010)