What Does it Mean to Be a Professional?

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‘Professionalism’ is one of those buzzwords which often gets tossed around by people who want to give you career advice. But what does it mean to be a professional? Rarely does anyone give a precise definition of what it means to act professionally, and when someone does, they generally produce a rigid list of rules which are seldom observed in practice. Here at the CLC, we produce a student-run podcast called in[Tuition], and on our most recent episode, we tried to nail down a more functional definition of professionalism which we based off of the input of our peers. We ended up coming to three conclusions:

  1. A professional takes their job seriously: in that they observe deadlines and schedules, not just because they need to, but because doing so constitutes an expression of respect to their colleagues, whose own work ultimately depends on their efforts.
  2. A professional acts and communicates with integrity: as they recognize that cutting corners can have disastrous consequences, and that an effective workplace requires a certain degree of transparency.
  3. A professional establishes boundaries: particularly with those of their colleagues whom they count among their friends, as navigating a workplace relationship which traverses both the professional and the personal can be incredibly difficult.

While we believe that these points provide a great basis for professional conduct, there were invariably a few points that we found to be important, but beyond the scope of what we were qualified to discuss. That being said, we believe that it is important that students are aware of these issues, and consequently, we will provide some avenues for further information here:

  1. Workplace Rights: one of the major themes of our episode was that professional behavior is not just incumbent upon the employee, but also upon the employer. As a young professional, sometimes it seems as though your role is to be completely subservient to your supervisor. However, as a Canadian employee, you have workplace rights which you may want to take the time to familiarize yourself with. For more information on these rights, please check out WorkBC’s website.
  2. Boundary Violation: in our episode, we refrained from discussing what to do if someone violates your boundaries. We did this specifically because we are students, and are not qualified experts on the matter. Nevertheless, it is important that you know that there are resources out there for you should you ever encounter this situation. Most notably, we would like to direct you to UBC Equity and Inclusion’s Resources page.

On that note, we would also like to acknowledge that what constitutes professionalism remains a conversation, and our definition does not constitute the be-all and end-all of professional conduct. Do you agree with us? Do you disagree? If you have anything to add to the conversation, please feel free to tweet us @UBCLearn, or comment below so that we can nail down what it means to be a professional these days!

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