What does it take to be a professional?

Professional manThere’s something about calling yourself a professional that feels good. It denotes an air of importance. An automatic reason someone should take what you say into consideration. A necessity to be heeded.

But what does it mean to be a professional? There are certain careers that people automatically think of as “professions.” But I’ve met waitresses and yoga teachers that blow lawyers and accountants out of the water when it comes to taking their careers seriously. So, what does it truly mean to be a professional?

First, professionals are generally considered to be pursuing some commercial endeavor – in other words, in business! Ah – so what does that mean? Well, think of the first business that comes to your head – preferably one that is successful and proven. My guess is that that business started with a goal. It is rare – if even possible – to find a business that just started on a whim, with no goal or purpose. Successful businesses have a vision for where they want to be and when. To reach their goal, they have to have a business plan. The business plan incorporates their long term goal, but also works backwards to help the business define shorter term goals and milestones, each of which will get them closer to their larger goal. A business also has a strong intention and motivation to execute that plan. In fact, the sole purpose of the business is to execute the plan, achieve the goal, and possibly to set larger goals after achieving that goal.

Being a professional also requires consistent practice at something. And I believe that one of the cornerstones of being a professional is to give consistent effort toward getting better at your craft. A professional is someone who is on their path and committed to it. They are skilled in their career and committed to continual growth. There is no status quo or “getting there” to a professional – they are continuously learning and progressing in their chosen profession. They seek to improve and understand that with practice will come missteps. Those missteps allow for opportunities for growth, and a professional never lets a bump in the road stop them. This element of constant practice is why the most common careers we think of as professions are often called practice  – lawyers practice law, doctors practice medicine, etc.

All of us know a professional out there. It might be someone tangential to you – like your doctor or accountant – but hopefully you are friends with professionals and maybe you even count yourself among them. If so – great! The thing about being a professional is that it has absolutely nothing to do with your chosen profession.

Many of us picture men and women in board rooms and suits when we think of a professional. The truth is a professional is simply any individual that is committed to their chosen career, that runs their career like a business – with a goal, a plan and a commitment to execute that plan, and that is devoted to continuous growth along the way. Simple, right?

See anything I’ve left out? Share your thoughts in the comments below on what it takes to be a professional.  

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