What Is Professional?

"But I'm not a professional," many people say to me when I discuss their careers.

I hear this a lot.  Aspiring artists, writers, publishers, coders, etc.  They all figure they're not professional now, but at some point in the future they'll be pros.  Until that point they're not professionals – and thus they figure no one will talk to them, they can't join professional groups, etc.  Professional comes with some special future achievement like the right job or the right degree.

I think that's B.S.  Professional is an attitude.

As I keep harping on there are many skilled people not working in the profession they're skilled in because they don't have the peripheral skills to do the job.  In turn, to become a professional you also need a professional attitude – you become a professional by acting like one.

What is a professional?  Someone who is good at and intimately cares about what they do.  So start caring – get a professional attitude:

Act like a professional.  Cultivate the right attitude, and approach your work with the right level of seriousness and interest.  Spend time doing things related to your profession.

Learn like a professional.  Read books.  Subscribe to magazines.  Take classes.  Read up on your chosen career.  Learn what you have to learn and what you have to do – and then do what you need to move ahead.

Talk to professionals.  Join groups.  Ask advice.  Keeping the right attitude and knowledge will help you communicate with them.

Dedicate time.  Spend the time to get better, smarter, cultivate your speaking, meet people, etc.  Being professional is not something done casually.

If you do these things you ARE a professional – because you care, because you're getting educated.  They're what you need to do to get that degree, that job, whatever you need, whatever you're aiming for.

Professional is not a thing you are.  It's what you do and what you care about.

– Steven Savage