Sunday, May 25, 2008

How To Be Professional

Writen by Erica Armstrong

What is being professional? Do you think you measure up? What separates a professional from an amateur? In days gone by, the definition was simply this -- if one was paid for something regularly, one was professional. Something followed for a hobby, or for fun, and not paid, was considered amateur.

Through the media and at school and college we are all repeatedly encouraged to be professional in our business dealings and working lives. What does one do to actually be professional? And just as importantly, what does one not do?

The dictionary definition of 'professional' is "…engaging in an activity as means of a livelihood. Extremely competent in a job. A person who conducts his business in a field also pursued by amateurs. A person who engages in an activity with great competence."

But is it just competence enough in isolation? Definitely not. Making yourself approachable and reasonable, and giving respect to other people is important. Ensuring that you present yourself in a businesslike manner, whether in person, on the telephone, or in writing, is essential. Turning up for an important business meeting with your favorite editor in torn jeans and dirty shoes is just sloppy. Being lazy and blaming lack of time or pressure of other commitments is definitely not professional. These constraints should not stop you making sure that you always project a businesslike appearance.

Perhaps the most vital aspect of being a professional is knowing your subject from A to Z. Do your homework and know exactly what you are talking about. Telling people B.S. may come easily to you, but being found out in a half-truth or bluff will lead instantly to a loss of credibility, putting in jeopardy your professional relationships while also compromising your integrity.

Something for everyone to be extremely careful about, not just writers, is not putting anything on paper unless one is completely and utterly comfortable with it. This applies equally to websites and particularly to email. Never send anything in writing when angry. Hold fire on any emails. Type out your frustration in Word, then leave it overnight to simmer. By morning you should have cooled down sufficiently to review your writing in a more rational manner. Sometimes printing out your rantings, then tearing them into a thousand pieces works well.

Another golden rule to being professional is not to commit to writing anything with which you are not totally comfortable. The acid test is to imagine your grandmother reading it. Or imagine it on the front page of a magazine or newspaper. Importantly, being accurate and taking responsibility for your decisions and actions is also the mark of a professional person. In developed countries, a firm grip on punctuality is important in a professional.

Sometimes being professional means knowing who best to delegate tasks to, and then having the courage to stand back. Being magnanimous and giving credit where credit is due is also a major part of being a true professional.

Looking professional is also part of it. To create a truly professional image, ensure you always wear clean and appropriate clothing, paying attention to grooming and personal cleanliness. Being reasonable, and fair, is important, but can be difficult if you are the only one doing it.

Being professional does not mean letting other people take advantage of you. Sometimes you may not be able to say what you would like, and holding your tongue and biting back certain comments may be difficult at times.

To sum up, it would seem that being categorized as professional means showing you have that rarest of commodities, common sense, and then, actually using it. Another major part is being adult, being considerate towards other people, and demonstrating self-control. No-one said it was easy, but it is definitely something worth striving for if you wish to be seen as a true professional, in a sea of amateurs.

By Erica of Textwriters.Net making words work

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