It’s obvious that a professional must have the requisite knowledge and skills to perform his or her job, so this article just deals with the other characteristics that distinguish a professional from an amateur or dilettante.

             One of the most important of these distinguishing characteristics is the willingness to always make an extra effort. A number of years ago I happened to be in the great pop singer Anne Murray’s dressing room in Las Vegas just before her final performance of a lengthy engagement. She was rehearsing her hit song “Snowbird,” a song she had sung thousands of times, and probably at least ten times that week. Yet she had felt that something wasn’t quite right with the way she had sung it in her show earlier that evening. So there she was, with her guitar player, going over it again just before taking the stage.

             It’s been reported that Al MacInnis (no relation ), for many years an All-Star defenseman in the National Hockey League, and who had one of the hardest shots in the game, used to shoot a puck at least 10,000 times during the off-season.

             Professionalism can’t be bought, sold, inherited or bequeathed. Professionalism is a personal attribute developed through a blend of knowledge, skill, hard work and dedication of purpose. The hardest part about being a professional is not the successful performance of a single, difficult act, but rather the successful replication of it time and time again, day after day, year after year, in changing circumstances and under difficult demands.

             Professionals strive to be at their best at all times. This includes how they look. Professionals have to care about their appearance. You should always dress well and appropriately in any particular situation. An effective rule of thumb is to always dress just a little better than the occasion calls for, but always in the manner which is expected of you in the particular circumstances. The most respected business professionals are also usually well-groomed.

             Another earmark of professionals is that they perform well even when they don’t feel like it, whereas non-professionals often have difficulty achieving something even when they do feel like it. Professionals always operate on the basis that good enough is the enemy of best. No one would have blamed Columbus for turning back, but no one would have remembered him either.

             Professionals keep their eyes on methods as well as on results. They’re never afraid to try new things or to try doing old things in new ways. They’ll always take the time to improve their craft, whether that entails intense study, extensive research, strenuous practice or constant rehearsing.

             Doing something well once doesn’t make you a professional any more than a duffer getting a hole-in-one makes him a professional golfer. You need to develop all the other attributes mentioned above.