When you hear the word “professional,” what comes to mind? This week we are looking at a question from a student about professionalism.

STUDENT QUESTION: What is a professional?

JOHN-CLAY: You’re a professional if you’ve ever been paid to do the work. Technically, you can consider yourself a professional, because everybody else is just doing it as a hobby, and they’re not usually getting paid, they’re just doing it for fun. So once you’ve been paid for it, you’re a professional.

Now, that’s kind of just a technical way of looking at it. But I do think a lot of it comes with experience which builds confidence, and therefore your ability to have your attitude, how organized you are, the character you display, definitely sets a tone, and I think that’s a fair point of saying those are good building blocks for saying you’re a professional.

To say someone's a professional, to me, means they understand the process it takes to accomplish what needs to be done. Click To Tweet

To say someone’s a professional, to me, means they understand the process it takes to accomplish what needs to be done. So if you think of someone who’s a professional athlete, they have an opinion and understand what’s necessary and what it takes to accomplish what’s being asked of them. The training, the health, the plays, all of those types of things will go into saying either, “Wow, they’re professional,” or, “They don’t have any idea what they’re doing.” And they may be out on the field or on the court running around, but not be professional.

To me, it is kind of synonymous with competency, in a sense. I guess that’s kind of the first thing that comes to mind for me in saying, “Are you professional or not?”

Do they sense that you're competent, or do they feel like you're just completely at your wit's end all the time?

ANDREW: When you have cool gear it helps. If you just have like a Canon point and shoot or something, it’s a little harder to look professional, but still you can. I think probably if you had to boil it down, the biggest thing would be if others feel like you know what you’re doing.

Do they sense that you’re competent, or do they feel like you’re just completely at your wit’s end all the time?

There are going to be moments where you’re like, “Ah, I don’t know what to do with this.” That’s totally fine. Everybody has that. But if you want them to feel like you have a system and you’re being professional about something, it doesn’t mean not conversational and very friendly, but rather you may not be goofing off.

It also depends on your brand. Some people seem to get by with that. But especially, I think for those of us who are younger, when they see kind of just a certain level of seriousness about what you’re doing, that can help.

Bethany Meckle

Bethany Meckle

Content Curator

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