One definition might be getting paid to do something. Another might be a commitment to performing at the highest level, to give your best at all times. Yet another may be exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace. While all of these are partially correct, there are many facets to being a true professional.
There are two parts to learning craftsmanship: knowledge and work. You must gain the knowledge of principles, patterns, practices, and heuristics that a craftsman knows, and you must also grind that knowledge into your fingers, eyes, and gut by working hard and practicing.
It requires more than just the knowledge of principles and patterns. You must sweat over it. You must practice it yourself, and watch yourself fail. You must watch others practice it and fail. You must see them stumble and retrace their steps. You must see them agonize over decisions and see the price they pay for making those decisions the wrong way.
- Robert Martin, Clean Code
A professional has specialized skills and knowledge that required independent erudition and effort on their part to attain. They engage in a process of constant evaluation and improvement. A professional makes decisions based on their dedication to the craft and not the current circumstance. The characteristic that separates the professional from the dilettante is an uncompromising commitment to excellence – doing what is required to get the job done at its highest level, even when it is inconvenient. An amateur is capable of doing some things well under the right conditions, but a professional, as a matter of course, does it well regardless of the situation.
A professional is passionate, motivated, and punctual. A professional respects the respectable, but admires the inspirational. A professional is a seeker of knowledge but also a teacher. A professional is disciplined, has the highest standards, and is engaged in the constant pursuit of un-attainable perfection. A professional is restless and never satisfied, always evaluating and re-evaluating where they’ve come and finding ways to do what they are doing better now, today, moment to moment.
I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.
- Leonardo da Vinci, artist, d. 1519, last words