Professionalism shows itself in many ways. For some it’s the successful completion of an extensive course of education leading to certification and licensing. For others, it’s a way of conducting oneself in business interactions. Some define it as a code of ethics they live their lives by. It is something that is constantly under development and constant improvement.
Is becoming a “professional” part of your life’s plan?
It’s hard to answer that question without knowing what it means to be a “professional” and what you must do to become one.
Fans of the Wikipedia will find a pretty dry, lifeless definition there: “a professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns their living from a specified activity.” So much for not defining a word using the word being defined. Seems this definition would make every crew kid at McDonalds and every newspaper delivery kid happy. Are there still newspaper delivery kids?
Deeper Insight into Being a Professional
The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) provides us with a much deeper perspective, saying “The original meaning of professional derived from the Middle English profes, an adjective meaning having professed one's vows, which itself derived from Late Latin professus, past participle of profitēri which meant to profess, confess. The idea was that professionals were those who 'professed' their skill to others, and 'vowed' to perform their profession to the highest standard.”
This definition gives us much more to sink our teeth into. By “professing one’s vows” one is clearly making a commitment. Vowing to perform to the highest standard speaks for itself. While we can agree with Wikipedia that being a professional involves earning your living from your profession, HRPA suggests that professionals are more concerned with the quality of their work than the compensation they receive for it. In the same HRPA article quotes scholar Eliot Friedson adding that professionalism is, “an ideology that asserts greater commitment to doing good work than to economic gain and to the quality rather than the economic efficiency of work.”
Friedson offers four more criteria for professionalism:
- Specialized work in the officially recognized economy that is believed to be grounded in a body of theoretically based, discretionary knowledge and skill and that is accordingly given special status in the labor force;
- Exclusive jurisdiction in a particular division of labor created and controlled by occupational negotiation;
- A sheltered position in both external and internal labor markets that is based on qualifying credentials created by the occupation; and
- A formal training program lying outside the labor market that produces the qualifying credentials, which is controlled by the occupation and associated with higher education.
Before we focus on that last point which helps us determine how one becomes a professional, let’s be honest with ourselves. Those were all great, fancy, high-falutin’ words but the reality is that we all pretty much know a professional when we see one. They are deadly serious about their work, insisting upon developing personal mastery in the skills required to perform their work. They’re always groomed and dressed in accord with the standards of their industry. They always “fix the customer first” by making sure the people they’re working for understand what is being done and why. They’re polite. They’re polished. Clearly, they know their s……tuff.
Getting More Guidance from a Great Source
Guidance from the New Horizons Center for Leadership & Professional Development not only helps us dive deeper into the heart of being a professional, it also offers courses and experiences uniquely designed to get you there.
As with any pursuit, their Professional Development path begins with setting goals and achieving them in a course titled “Accomplishing the Results You Want.” Using critical insight in your thinking to support your ability to make great decisions, especially when you’re under pressure, in also included.
New Horizons also points out the importance of developing successful relationships, something every professional must do constantly to achieve their own personal objectives. This also helps you to extend your all-important sphere of influence, a critical tool given that most professionals succeed through their affiliation with other professionals.
Courses include focus on expanding your “emotional intelligence” which is crucial for professionals in any service-based practice who must remain patient even while others around them are not, and the important role time and task prioritizing plays in maintaining your professional reputation for getting things done on time and within budget.
Launch Yourself on the Path to Professionalism
Professional Development is part of a larger universe of learning that includes Communication & Interpersonal training and in Leadership & Management. To learn more, talk to your New Horizons Career Counselor of visit the Center’s web page.