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I thought I would talk about professionalism today. There’s this weird misunderstanding with “freshers” (new grads) that sometimes pops up and sometimes that’s actually caused problems for me. Why? I’ve worked in so many places with so many different cultures I understand the significance of professionalism and how culture affects the interpretation of this word. “Professional” appears all the time, but what does it mean? Words have different meanings depending on context.

I thought (when I was a fresher) that being a professional meant behaving in a particular way, doing a job in a way that satisfied others without offending them or putting them out of their way, and generally just being a “nice guy”. Boy was I wrong! I suppose it might be worth mentioning “tenure”, but let’s keep things simple: let’s assume tenure doesn’t exist. Simply put, professionalism is the philosophy and practice of a profession. A profession is something that is professed: the theory behind and practice of a discipline, for example, electrical engineering or accounting.

Company policy might say “no ripped pants” but policy is not what makes you a professional. Perhaps the simple most best way to explain this would be to say professionals “get paid” (as opposed to amateurs who don’t). Amateur radio is not a profession, but I have turned my enjoyment of the hobby into a profession. It doesn’t mean not wearing ripped pants or not cursing at work, posting religious posts on LinkedIn, or talking about certain things negatively around others. We all want to express ourselves, and we are free to do so even in our jobs (and if you want to keep your job, typically when there is a justified reason for it). I’m not saying it’s smart or good to talk (for example) hatefully around people (like talking anti-LGBTQ ideas in 2023). However, if you’re roman catholic, these ideas fit in). This is where culture comes into play.

So what does professionalism mean? That’s up to you, because for every person and company it will be different. Sorry you had to read this post, because other than my very simple answer and a bit of an explanation of how culture and professionalism are related, I haven’t really answered your question, but hopefully I’ve given you something to think about!

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