Define Professionalism

A recent post of mine inspired some rather stimulating discussion. Good idea, I thought, just what is “professionalism”?

How should professionals behave (in this case, publishing professionals)?

Years ago, in a university ROTC military studies classes, we discussed the concept. What exactly is “professionalism”? It seemed, as I remember it, that we found the concept was applied differently across the boards. Today is not much different, I think, in terms of the “average person’s” concept. Sure there are definitions out there employing versions of “following an occupation as a means of livelihood, or for gain,” or just being really, really good at what you do, but a couple terms  I feel should be more included into all these definitions are ethics, discipline, and respect. This definition seemed to do a pretty good job of it.

Which brings me back to that earlier post about one reviewer’s action that spawned a bit broader discussion of behavior that touched on the topic of professionalism. Is it proper for industry professionals (and here we’re talking mainly about the publishing world, but it could definitely apply to any industry) to rip into other (granted the military or law enforcement professions are a bit different, here…)? And it’s not just about reviewers, it’s editors, agents, executives, you name it. But, okay, sure, reviewers are supposed to be honest in their review of books by authors, to be “hard hitting” and all that CNN/Fox News-speak in their efforts, but do all these efforts exist to nail authors to a wall? To publically intimidate and humiliate?

What IS the purpose of a book reviewer?

What IS the purpose of an editor or publisher? An agent?

In this link, take a hard look at the “Features” paragraph. Read it a couple times. Stare at it. Internalize it.

Never treat others as if they’re insignificant.

Always maintain the highest levels of integrity.

And here’s a really good one:

Consider how your actions affect the journey, not just the object at hand.

So, when you’re sitting across from an editor or agent, or reading a review of a book, what do you expect from industry professionals? Besides some truth, how about a little human decency?

In some of my previous discussions, many said they wanted to be told the truth, no sugar-coating. That it’s a tough world out there. And I told them I agree. But what I did not agree with was ripping a person a new one in the process–being rude, condescending, or overbearing. Sure, it certainly can be a tough world out there, but it’s only that way because WE make it that way. We’re the ones making this world one way or the other. Even in learning situations, I maintain (and I have been at both ends–I once did some editing/reading for a defunct publication) this can be done. It can be done graciously and with great consideration for the individual. Sure, we’re human, most of us, as far as you know, and there will be slips, but even with slips, we need to own-up and apologize if we go overboard for our own behavior.

In short, criticism doesn’t have to be wielded like a 2 x 4 from out of the blue.

Industry professionals of any kind need to have a deep understanding of the environment within which they wield their superpowers, and the capacity to restrain and properly throttle back said superpowers when needed.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

What is the point of tearing an individual apart in delivering critical analysis?

Because you can?

Because they deserve it?

Think about that for a second:  WHAT IS THE POINT?

If the importance of life is in the journey (or anything else, but the argument still fits the bill), shouldn’t we take greater heed in the method and delivery of our criticisms? Anyone can be rude. Anyone can be “hard hitting.” Anyone can just spit out whatever’s on their mind without regard to another, or in answer to their own egotism, arrogance, or inferiority complexes.

NOT everyone has a presence of mind and discipline.

NOT everyone can reign it in at the expense of their own gain.

NOT everyone can understand to whom their words are about and to whom will be affected longer-term, intended or unintended consequences.

NOT everyone can keep ego, arrogance, or any other emotion in check at “the critical hour.”

As the link describes, professionalism is not about you. It’s about the value you place on others and how you apply your superpowers.

Professionalism is about…rising head and shoulders above the rest in all areas of the performance of one’s duties…about going the extra mile…about giving and doing more than is required to get the job done…about respecting others…about consideration of your actions upon others and the outcomes themselves…about doing what’s right…about applying an ethic to all your efforts.

Sure, sometimes a hammer is needed…but if so, take the individual aside and wield that hammer deliberately and away from public view.

Being “professional” is many things to many people (as evidenced by all the books, papers, and courses devoted to it), but I think this article does a great job in boiling down the concept to a quick read. Tailor your superpowers to the situation in a respectful, value-added, and humane way. Make our world a better place to live in.


About fpdorchak

Upmarket paranormal fiction author. I write gritty, Twilight Zone-like fiction. Please check out my website:! Thank you for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Define Professionalism

  1. karen Lin says:

    Professionalism is many things; frankness and honesty with any feedback about the work (not the writer) seem obvious. But the part that feels left out to some is the kindness part. Not really kindness – respect. I don’t need criticism couched in artificial sweetness and “this is only my take on it, I may be wrong, you are worthy, or this is great just not for me.” In fact that can come off as condescending. If I know somebody well, and that they have noble and helpful intentions, I need no cushioning about the writing. Simply sock it to me. That is how I prefer to hear it from my critique group since we don’t have time to sandwich everything between lauditory comments. I know my fellow writers’ intentions are good, I know the comments are only their take on things. They know they get the same from me. It would be a mistake for an agent/editor/publishing pro who doesn’t know me to blast me as a writer unkindly or qualify with over-sweet apologetic syrup. That may drive me from approaching that door in the future when my skills may have come along far enough to have a best seller in hand. I believe that, in our industry, the oversweet or unkind are mistakes. Well-meaning or not, they feel unprofessional.

  2. fpdorchak says:

    I agree, and thanks, Karen!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s