Being a professional or being professional?

The questions conflate two ideas, one about 'being a professional' and the other 'being professional' (unfortunately the word 'professionalism' is used to describe both).  An exercise I carried out a few years ago with a group of mid-career doctoral candidates was to consider first what it means to be a professional, then secondly to be professional or act professionally.  The difference in the two lists was revealing. 

Being a professional suggests things such as being qualified (however defined) and practising in a definable area, having expertise based on a deep level of knowledge, and having a commitment to the area of practice - possibly (but not necessarily) through being a member of a relevant professional body.  This is essentially about  occupational identity and status.

Being professional on the other hand is about how one chooses to practise, and is about judgement, principles and ethics. 

Ideally, but certainly not always, the two things coincide.

  • I was trying to add this in as an overall comment, not as an extra category.  Essentially, I think there's one category about definitions - 'am I a professional, more specifically am I an HR professional?' - and another one about professionalism as I would use it, i.e. 'do I act professionally?'

  • It is hard to think of an example when it would be acceptable to be unprofessional from an individual's or end-user perspective regardless of professional status. Those acting judicially  in accordance with their principles and ethics may not consider themselves as being professional but being true to their own values.

  • Being professional is based on your on composure under circumstances in which your professionalist subject (expertise) tells you different

  • I think that the profession is still suffering from a lack of respect from other business people. Accountants and other business professionals must undergo stringent training and assessments in order to enter the profession, unfortunately that isn't thecase for many HR practitioners/ professionals. 'Being professional' will go a long way in helping HR people assert their presence and impact.

  • Both is very much required