What does a Professional look like?

photo credit: unsplash 2tlasvhqil0-eutah-mizushima

photo credit: unsplash 2tlasvhqil0-eutah-mizushima

When I was a teenager, I had a great opportunity to go to New York City with my Drama Club. We saw shows on Broadway, went to Ellis Island, got to hang out in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The most memorable story from that trip was an experience I had at McDonald’s.

Being from the Pacific Northwest, I had a certain level of expectation about how my interaction at the counter would go. I was used to the people at McDonald’s being courteous, sometimes even friendly and helpful. So, I walked up to the counter and waited for the sign that it was time to place my order: eye contact from the person at the register. It never came. In this entire interaction, this person never looked me in the eye. And when, after a few seconds of silence from me, she barked, “what do you want?”

I was flabbergasted. I felt I had somehow offended this person. So, red-faced and confused, I asked for what I wanted and paid with very few words exchanged between us. I had some understanding at the time that the East Coast has a culture that is different in many ways from our laid-back way of life here on the West Coast. I didn’t understand that this difference extended to attitudes about customer service. Unfortunately for me, this was not the last time I would be shocked by unprofessional behavior.

What are the essential ingredients that make up a Professional? Years of experience? Helpful, but no. Advanced degrees? Also helpful, but no. Read lots of self-improvement books? Nope. Know all the answers to all the questions? NO! You can be a Professional from day one in any position. It is an attitude, an opportunity, a mind-set. The anatomy of a Professional boils down to the following five qualities.


Thinking before you speak, looking back on situations and learning from them, taking responsibility for your behavior; all of these are marks of a reflective person.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.
— Edmund Burke


Professionals are intentional with their words and actions because they know how much impact those words and actions can have. No matter what they are doing or what they are getting paid, Professionals understand that every interaction is important.

Ongoing learning

It is more than just what you say or do – it is how you seek opportunities to learn and grow! Professionals are always striving to be better today than they were yesterday.


Professionals are invested in being the best at whatever they’re doing. They learn new skills, take on new responsibilities, and help others meet the standards of their workplace. They overcome obstacles and are resilient in the face of adversity.


We all learn by watching the people around us. Professionals understand that if they don’t lead or follow, they need to get out of the way. Even though a Professional may not be in a position of power or authority, they lead by example and convince others around them to do the same.

No matter where you find a Professional, they will all look the same at their core. You may be held to different levels of expectation based on your job description and you will apply these principles in different ways. But, as a Professional, you will be committed to excellence, reflective and intentional in your dealings with others, always learning and growing, and you will find people following your example. Whether others acknowledge you as such, you ARE a Professional!

If you’d like some more in-depth information and a chance to apply it in your situation, consider taking “Job Professionalism for Staff of Early Childhood Programs” from our online campus.

Want more support as you continue on your Professional journey? Sign up to be a member of our Smart*Fun Professional Community. We send members emails with a more in-depth look at the topics on the blog. I’ll be picking the brain of our very own Tammy Marino to answer any questions you have. ASK US (molly@askphoenixsolutions.com) and we will address them.


Growing in the Profession course materials, Ask Phoenix Solutions


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