Thursday's Child: Professionalism- What Does It Mean?

This is the week of my birthday (Saturday), but Thursday is the day of the week upon which I was born, so technically, today is the anniversary of my birth. I've always loved Thursday, and as I've stated in previous installments, I'm working through what it means "to go far".

Most of my readers are aware that while I would LOVE to write, and teach spiritual things full-time, the bills need to get paid, so I work in adult learning and development in a corporate environment. I'm currently developing some soft-skills training for my company's contact center, and I'm at the part where I'm going to teach them about professionalism.

The problem I've encountered in my *cough* years of training is that the word "professionalism" has different meanings to different people. Professionalism means "dressing appropriately" to some people; enunciating and using proper grammar, to others; to some it means being responsible. It's an interesting exercise to start off a training by asking others to define it, before I teach them what it generally means in a corporate environment.

What I've observed is that professionalism is strongly tied to courtesies and etiquette, which are determined by the environment in which they are expected.

Many of my friends and colleagues would say that professionalism is something one should innately understand. I disagree. When I go to a foreign country, it behooves me to check out their culture and customs before I go there. It's just a polite thing to do. I don't want to be an offensive visitor. Most people I know don't either.

It makes sense that if I'm planning to speak to an audience on any subject, I'd want to ensure that I know who will be attending and what their motivations might be for coming to listen to me. I don't think I'd be wearing a 3-piece suit to speak to folks on the manufacturing line. They can't relate to me, and I'd come across as being someone who thinks I'm better than them. Conversely, I don't want to speak to c-level executives wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. These examples would be what I'd label as "etiquette".

Professionalism is also about good manners. For example, I am a tarot reader. I see into other people's personal lives and private issues that they don't want others to know. As a professional, I would never share my client's private issues with others. I don't share their email addresses, nor put them on my mailing list or anything that I believe would be inconsiderate or unethical.

The antonym to "professional" is "amateur". There are several definitions, but I specifically refer to "a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity." A professional is someone with experience and skill. This can be someone who is experienced in life, at business, etc... and as such, a professional is someone who should behave in a manner befitting experience and skill. We expect children to have issues with controlling emotions, improper hygiene, etc... but, as those children grow and gain experience, our expectations of them rise.

I've seen professionalism equated with "being classy." There are just some behaviors that professionals will never display. They don't air dirty laundry in public; they don't throw public tantrums; they don't participate in gossip; they aren't lazy; they don't use low-energy words or display low-energy behaviors.

For my generation, people like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly would be considered professional and classy. In the business world, folks like Bill and Melinda Gates would exemplify professionalism. President Obama is a professional and so is his wife, Michelle. Spiritually, I'd say folks like Wayne Dyer, Ly De Angeles, Deborah Blake, and Marie Forleo are all great examples of professionalism in action.

I believe that someone who wants to go far must make friends with professionalism. How about you? What did I miss? Do you agree or disagree with my definition? What behaviors do you think are critical to success?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Beannú na déithe's n'aindhéithe ort !
("The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you".)

Thursday's child is a new series of blog posts where I examine what it means "to go far". I hope you'll join me in this exploration each week


  1. To me, critical for success is drive. You must be willing to burn the midnight oil, work that extra hour and put forth that extra effort. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Ironically my post this morning on my page was directly related to getting up and getting the job done. To me, you cannot fail if you have at least attempted to complete the task and learned something in the process.

    1. Beautifully said!! Thank you for sharing, Renee! <3

  2. To me, professionalism isn't just about appearance but perception. You may be wearing an Armani suit but if you mumble & stumble your way through your presentation to high-level execs - or in just a phone call with them, they'll wonder at your competence, no matter how well you may know your subject.
    Professionalism is knowing your stuff and being able to present if clearly, too.

    It's saying, "I don't know the answer to your question but I'll certainly look and get back to you", and then following up timely. This instead of blurting out what you *think* they want to hear, which may or may not be correct.

    I'm sure there are more images/ideas floating around in my head but those are the two that immediately came to mind.

    1. Good points, DJ. I'd say that's the difference between and amateur and a professional ;)


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