1. Great responsibility
    Professionals deal in matters of vital importance to their clients and are therefore entrusted with grave responsibilities and obligations. Given these inherent obligations, professional work typically involves circumstances where carelessness, inadequate skill, or breach of ethics would be significantly damaging to the client and/or his fortunes.
  2. Accountability
    Professionals hold themselves ultimately accountable for the quality of their work with the client. The profession may or may not have mechanisms in place to reinforce and ensure adherence to this principle among its members. If not, the individual professional will (e.g. guarantees and/or contractual provisions).
  3. Based on specialized, theoretical knowledge
    Professionals render specialized services based on theory, knowledge, and skills that are most often peculiar to their profession and generally beyond the understanding and/or capability of those outside of the profession. Sometimes, this specialization will extend to access to the tools and technologies used in the profession.
  4. Institutional preparation
    Professions typically require a significant period of hands-on, practical experience in the protected company of senior members before aspirants are recognized as professionals. After this provisional period, ongoing education toward professional development is compulsory. A profession may or may not require formal credentials and/or other standards for admission.
  5. Autonomy
    Professionals have control over and, correspondingly, ultimate responsibility for their own work. Professionals tend to define the terms, processes, and conditions of work to be performed for clients (either directly or as preconditions for their ongoing agency employment).
  6. Clients rather than customers
    Members of a profession exercise discrimination in choosing clients rather than simply accepting any interested party as a customer (as merchants do).
  7. Direct working relationships
    Professionals habitually work directly with their clients rather than through intermediaries or proxies.
  8. Ethical constraints
    Due to the other characteristics on this list, there is a clear requirement for ethical constraints in the professions. Professionals are bound to a code of conduct or ethics specific to the distinct profession (and sometimes the individual). Professionals also aspire toward a general body of core values, which are centered upon an uncompromising and unconflicted regard for the client's benefit and best interests.
  9. Merit-based
    In a profession, members achieve employment and success based on merit and corresponding voluntary relationships rather than on corrupted ideals such as social principle, mandated support, or extortion. Therefore, a professional is one who must attract clients and profits due to the merits of his work. In the absence of this characteristic, issues of responsibility, accountability, and ethical constraints become irrelevant, negating any otherwise-professional characteristics.
  10. Morality
    The responsibilities inherent to the practice of a profession are impossible to rationally maintain without a moral foundation that flows from a recognition of the singular right of the individual to his own life, along with all of its inherent and potential sovereign value.


Professionalism means behaving in an ethical manner while assuming and fulfilling your rightful responsibilities in every situation every time, without fail. To get a bit more granular, one can say that it means, in part, conducting your affairs in such a way as to engender trust and confidence in every aspect of your work. It means having the requisite ability to be worthy of the confidence others place in you. It means having already made the right choices so that you attract the right sort of client and work under good circumstances rather than having to continually make the best of bad circumstances and take whatever is tossed your way, regardless of its quality.

Perhaps most importantly, professionalism means, in every situation, willfully gathering responsibility rather than avoiding it. Doing so is important because if you don't acknowledge and assume the onus of responsibility in every aspect of your work you will seldom if ever make the right choice to do what is necessary to achieve consistent success for your employer, your employees, your clients, or yourself.

Important distinctions between Professionals and Non-Professionals

  • A professional makes deliberate choices where others have choices made for them or they simply react to what comes their way.
  • A professional is afforded the luxury of making deliberate choices because he has made deliberate preparations.
  • A professional can make deliberate preparations because his understanding of and familiarity with the relevant (professional) landscape informs him on how to prepare. Also, like the chess master, he is trained to understand the inevitable results of hundreds of different patterns; he has disciplined himself to observe the whole board and not just the most immediate features or the area with the most tension in the game.
  • A professional is seldom caught off-balance. The discipline for deliberate preparation and the understanding that comes with it allow that even when something unexpected or unfamiliar is introduced, a professional can quickly understand its basis and easily extrapolate the appropriate tactic, strategy, or process for ethically and successfully resolving issues.
  • In this capacity, and most fundamentally, a professional habitually makes the right choices because all of his choices are based on the integrity provided by his moral and ethical foundation. Any choice of expedience over integrity can quite easily be recognized by anyone as the wrong choice. Here, the professional simply acknowledges what is obvious, makes the right choice, and acts deliberately.

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