Professionalism: A misunderstood term

Everyday, thousands of students join engineering colleges thinking that they are going to be “Professionals” after completing around four years of course. Once I asked some students the reason behind joining computer engineering in college. One of the answers that I got was “To become professional software developer”. On the other hand, I have noticed students appearing for interviews wearing formal clothes just to show that they are professionals. Not only students, but many times, people working in software companies develop a culture where they won’t call you professional unless you are going to wear formal clothes.

I know these experiences are little funny but they clearly show how people have misunderstood the term “Professional” and “Professionalism”. Once I met one of my friends during office timings and noticed that he was trying to be too serious in his approach. At his home, he used to be pretty humorous. When I asked him about the reason behind his change of behavior, he said he needs to be serious to look professional. So what exactly is professionalism?

While at work, it’s true that you need to follow some dress code and work ethics but that doesn’t mean that being professional is only limited to acting serious and wearing formal clothes. According to an article titled ‘What is a professional programmer?’ by Sarah George, being professional is to have set of qualities like trustworthiness, teamwork, leadership, communication, constant updating of skills, an interest in minimizing risks and accountability.

I completely agree with Sarah George. However, now I have a new question in my mind. Are our professional colleges trying to develop these qualities in students or are they trying to make them pseudo professional by training them with false concepts. When I raised this question in front of related authorities, they simply said it’s the fault of students that they don’t take any interest to learn by themselves.

There are many reasons behind misunderstanding the meaning of professionalism. But it’s our responsibility to leave such misunderstandings behind and develop the qualities described by Sarah George. This will not only help us in developing our career but will also help in the progress of our nation, world and the whole human race.

Comments

  1. hazare says:

    “When I raised this question in front of related authorities, they simply said it’s the fault of students that they don’t take any interest to learn by themselves.”

    In PCCE we are taught that wearing 3/4ths or shorts is unacceptable because we are professional students and should behave as such. Do you agree? Can students dress in any way they like?

    Some colleges (not ours thankfully) don’t even allow students to grow beards or keep long hair.

    In American colleges that are of much better calibre than PCCE don’t care is students bunk all their classes, wear shorts or eat in class. We should be the same!

  2. Anay says:

    I never said that students should be allowed to dress in any way they like. What I meant was, that no one becomes professional just by wearing formal clothes.

    Read ther part carefully that says “While at work, it’s true that you need to follow some dress code and work ethics but that doesn’t mean that being professional is only limited to acting serious and wearing formal clothes.”

    That anwers your second question too. Every organisation has its own dress codes and that must be followed. Don’t compare the college you have said with any American colleges. The quality of students as well as the quality of american colleges which you are referring is very high compared to the college you have mentioned. If that college allows students to bunk, possibility is that most of the students will bunk just to go home and waste time and not to study or do some research.

  3. The professional qualities you mention are musts if one is to be successful in the workplace. If colleges do not teach them, there are many great books that do. You have made some very good observations!

    Terry L. Sumerlin
    The Barber-osopher
    Author/Motivational Speaker

  4. Joanne says:

    When someone says “you need to be more professional”, they usually mean “no one will respect you or take you seriously if you “. Whether or not it was irresponsible is often a matter of opinion, but a good employee will listen to such statements. The problem comes when they use other peoples’ standards of what is “professional” instead of their own.

    It is very possible to be respected and still be humorous, informal, and dress casually. But some people believe those are immature behaviors, so they encourage a “professional” personality that dresses formally, doesn’t laugh or joke, overemphasizes rules, doesn’t allow any non-work-related activity in the office, and so on. This kind of “professional” can be spotted a mile off and adds no benefit to a work group.

    Such people would be better served if they developed the behaviors listed in the original post that really do mark professionals, and integrated them into their real personality.

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