Professionalism
  • Treating others with respect and courtesy, being honest and responsible at all times
  • Adhering to high standards of integrity and ethics without wavering
  • Dressing, communicating, and conducting myself in a manner appropriate to the setting

HARRINGTON COMMENTARY

At Funds For Learning, we pride ourselves in being professionals. We use the word professional to describe ourselves. The very first word on our client contracts is the word professional. Our dress codes calls for professional attire. We have specific professional Codes of Conduct to which we adhere.

But what does it mean to be a professional? Is it having a diploma? A paycheck? A certification? A monopoly on information? Is a professional supposed to have all the answers? Know everything? Fix anything? What is a professional?

From my perspective, being a professional isn’t about having a specific attribute. Nor is it just about having knowledge and a client list. Yes, professionals possess certain expertise and provide specific services. But being a professional is much more than that. It’s a combination of factors that build on and reinforce one another; and it starts, not with a title or training, but with an attitude of courtesy and respect and a desire to help others. Let me illustrate.

I recall a client once demanding to have a meeting at 9am the day after Christmas. It required leaving home and flying out late the night before. I didn’t get much sleep that night; but the next morning I recall feeling at least some sense of satisfaction that I’d made it to the meeting on time… until I realized the client wasn’t there. Several hours went by. Finally, the client arrived -- so late that I could have left OKC early that morning instead of the night before -- and when they arrived, they didn’t apologize or even acknowledge the fact that they were so late for their own meeting. In fact, the utter lack of respect and courtesy continued throughout our time together that day.

This individual was a senior school district official who wore a suit, had a title, and was paid handsomely to do their job. Yet, despite these facts, I can tell you that there was nothing professional about this individual.

I mention this example because it illustrates the truth about being a professional. Being paid to do a job, or having expert training to complete a task, doesn’t make you a professional. Likewise, you are not required to have a fancy title or a glamorous job to be a professional.

Being a professional is more than what you do, it’s how you do it. When you demonstrate professionalism, you treat others with respect. You adhere to standards of behavior and courtesy towards others. You faithfully serve others to the best of your ability. You honor your commitments, and, when appropriate, you acknowledge the limitations in your ability to fulfill others’ needs.

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Back to the “after Christmas meeting” that I mentioned before. Because the client wasn’t treating me with respect that day, it was tempting for me to treat them the same way. But that would have been a mistake, and unprofessional of me. In fact, things could have gone from bad to worse and Funds For Learning may have lost a client. Instead, the school district has become a long term client of FFL and we regularly include them as a reference to potential customers.

And the unprofessional individual? They are no longer at the school district.

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Key Words and Phrases

Exhibiting courteous behavior; Conscientious manners; Technical prowess; Expert; Ethical standards; Trained; Experienced; Authority.

Opposite Terms

Amateur; Inexperienced; Dabbler; Non-expert.

 
 
 
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