Tim Bryce: Professional is a word not easily defined
The word “professional” means a person is engaged in a specific activity as one’s main paid occupation. Related to this is “professionalism,” which is considered the quality of a person’s work as it applies to his vocation, e.g.; “You can depend on Jim, he is very professional in his job,” or; “Forget about Fred, he’s undependable, inconsistent; you know, very unprofessional.” I find it interesting the perspectives we have of ourselves as professionals. We all like to believe we are top-notch go-getters, but in reality is this really so? Young people desperately look for recognition from their managers as to the caliber of their work. Many genuinely believe they are highly professional in their work effort. The reality is they are far from it.
Some people believe their sense of professionalism is based on their taste in clothes and grooming, that if they project a certain image, people will develop a high opinion of them. Others believe it is a matter of being regarded as an authority on a specific subject. All of this is just facade. It’s not a matter of appearances or being an authority on a subject, but more a matter of your ability to deliver. It means you take your vocation seriously and are committed to success. From this perspective, it is more akin to “class” as applied to workmanship, such as inferior, average, good, and best. The professional thereby embraces best practices on a regular basis. Whereas some people do just enough to get by, the professional consistently produces superior results. Facade is simply not enough, it’s all about results. There is nothing more worthless than a person who knows how to do a job, but cannot deliver.
A true professional is considered resourceful, polished, knowledgeable, determined, and above all else, dependable to perform a task to a successful completion. You are the “go-to” person who produces superior results and, in the process, makes it look easy. Even if the task is difficult, you do not complain, you just make it happen. In other words, a true professional goes above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis.
Instilling a sense of professionalism in an organization is difficult and requires coaching and mentoring. It includes developing a sense of craftsmanship, where methodologies and techniques are taught to the point it is understood; the benefits of performing tasks the right way, and the risks and penalties associated with performing tasks the wrong way. Our sense of professionalism is an inherent part of the corporate culture. The ultimate goal is to develop an esprit de corps whereby the company as a whole possesses the notion of zero tolerance for defects and attaining goals on-time and within budget.
I wish it would be possible to certify professionalism, but you cannot, primarily because it is more of an attitude as opposed to a quantifiable technique. Projecting a professional image through fashion and vocabulary is nice and adds to your persona, but if you really want to be recognized as a professional, develop a reputation for delivering quality work products. Consider your approach to work; if you do just enough to get by, you are not there yet.
Keep the Faith!