In the circles I hang out in, there's been a lot of talk about this lately. What does it mean to be professional? Do people think of you as being a professional? Is your business being perceived as professional?
For a lot of us, we grew up in a time where being professional meant wearing a suit or similar business attire and using quite formal language when speaking and in other communications. And sure, that's probably still pretty appropriate in certain environments, such as banks or lawyer's offices. But what if you're not in that world? What if you're an artist, designer, massage therapist, yoga teacher or bike mechanic? You're probably not going to wear a suit to work. How does the idea of professionalism fit into your world?
Let's start by referring to our good old friend, Merriam Webster:
: relating to a job that requires special education, training, or skill
: done or given by a person who works in a particular profession
: paid to participate in a sport or activity
You'll notice there's nothing in there about perception or feeling or looking a certain way. It's pretty clear, really: If you're working in a particular profession, you're a professional. Congratulations!
But of course, we don't walk around comparing our lives to dictionary definitions (what a weird world that would be!). There is still a strong belief that being professional is more than just having a specific skill set or paid work.
So why is it we collectively cling to this notion that in order to be a professional, we need to act, speak and look a certain way?
My take on it is this: Being a professional is more about your attitude towards your work and the people you do the work for. It isn't about wearing a certain thing (although showing up for a client meeting in your pyjamas is probably a bad idea) or writing emails in formal language.
It's about going that extra mile for your clients. You aren't just doing a job, you want to do an awesome job, because this is your profession and you care about it.
It's about respecting your clients with the language you use and communicating clearly with them. Speak in ways that are authentic for you and are understood by your clients and make them feel at ease with your abilities and knowledge.
It's about being good at what you do and demonstrating that without showing off.
It's about knowing where there are holes in your knowledge and always being willing to learn something new.
It's about being honest and reliable. If you don't know something, say that, and figure out how you'll find out the missing information. If you have a deadline, make sure you stick to it. Show up on time for anything you're booked to be at, be it a meeting, class you're teaching, or appointment. In general, make people know they can trust you to come through for them.
And really, being authentic, reliable and a hard worker will go a huge way toward attracting the kinds of clients you work best with to your business. It's really a win/win situation.
So are you professional enough? If you're even thinking about it, probably you already are!
Got something to add to the conversation? The comment box in just below, would love to hear your thoughts!