If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Are You A Professional?

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
December 2, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 48

Credit: Shutterstock
True professionals strive to be helpful and respectful to coworkers.
Three young professionals work together.
Credit: Shutterstock
True professionals strive to be helpful and respectful to coworkers.

Everyone knows that being a true professional is a good thing, but what does that term really mean? At the most basic level, a professional can be defined as someone who gets paid to do something. However, being a true professional means much more than that.

A true professional is really someone who exudes professionalism. This quality is reflected in a collection of attitudes and actions that demonstrate dedication to a specific goal and that usually inspire respect and admiration from colleagues.

KNOWLEDGEABLE. One such attitude is a drive for building knowledge and skills. True professionals may already have a wealth of experience in their jobs and knowledge in their field of interest, but they are always willing, and even eager, to learn more. They realize that technology and circumstances change, so they’re constantly evolving and looking for ways to improve both themselves and the way they do things.

RESPECTFUL. True professionals also respect their colleagues, respond to them in a timely manner, and have reasonable expectations. They judge others by the quality of their work and by their actions, with no preconceptions or biases.

HELPFUL. Professionals are willing to share their knowledge, expertise, and experience with others. They’re happy to mentor students and others new to the field. They go out of their way to look for opportunities to help other professionals.

TRUSTWORTHY. True professionals also follow through on their commitments. They meet deadlines and quotas. If circumstances arise that make those impossible, they let their colleagues know as soon as possible, and they suggest a plan to mitigate any harm caused by the delay. They look for the best in their coworkers and avoid gossip about the faults of others.

DEDICATED. True professionals do what’s needed to meet specific goals, regardless of whether those actions fit within their official job descriptions. When necessary, they come to work early or stay late, and they often find themselves thinking about work issues during their “off” time. They understand what is needed now and what can be delayed, and they are committed to ensuring the success of their projects. This doesn’t mean they typically work around the clock. Everyone needs time off and mental breaks, but professionals make sure their critical work responsibilities are addressed before they take a break.

There are many other characteristics that are consistent with being a true professional. To identify some of them, you might want to study your successful coworkers to see what behavior you admire.

Then you can ask yourself how well your attitudes and actions compare with what you think a true professional should be like. If you feel you’re not yet where you want to be, you can make a conscious effort to change. Adopting practices that make you more knowledgeable, respectful, helpful, trustworthy, and dedicated will make a positive impact on your career.

Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.