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Dressed Down: What Does Being ‘Professional’ Really Mean?

It’s something you hear when you’re starting your career (and something you’ll hear constantly, throughout your career, if you’re a nonconformist): "You have to be more professional." Of course, that begs the question, just how does one "be professional" in the first place? Think about what your definition for professionalism has been. It’s not something you came up with yourself. No one is coloring a particularly sweet giraffe in kindergarten thinking: "How can I do this kindergarten thing in a more professional manner?" You don’t start thinking about this notion of professionalism until you start working — and not because you feel like it's the right thing to be doing, either. Someone (your first boss, a teacher priding himself on remaining grounded in "real life") started drilling the idea into your head. "Professionalism" — never was there a finer term to air-quote. ... READ THE REST

Originally published July 9, 2015
Last updated November 5, 2020
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