5 Characteristics of a Professional

1. Take advantage of every opportunity. 

I started my career as a hairstylist. At conferences I am often asked how I become a speaker, author, and executive speech coach? By noticing and using every chance that turned up. Opportunity doesn’t knock just once. It knocks all the time, though you may not recognize the sound. One technique is to learn from successful people by finding out how they achieved their success.

2. Start by asking questions.

Successful people will share their knowledge and experiences with you if you ask good questions that stimulate their thinking and responses. The quality of the information you receive depends on the quality of your questions. The key to connecting with others is conversation, and the secret of conversation is to ask the right questions. A conversation can lead to a relationship, and a nurtured relationship can produce amazing results.

3. Dedicate yourself.

Two questions you should ask yourself on a fairly regular basis are, “What can I do to contribute to my profession–to my employer and my professional association?” and “How can I be professionally accountable?” When you can do this, you’ll get so much more than you give.


4. Use stories.

Be inventive in selling yourself and your profession. Learn to network, one on one, by using memorable stories. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to fade into the background. Most of us are shy in some situations. But, to be professionally accountable, you must be able to stand out and speak up. When you are in any situation where you’re meeting the public, how do you introduce yourself? When people ask what you do, can you tell them in a way that will stick in their minds? I challenge you to come up with a one-sentence way of presenting yourself and your profession so that people will never forget. Create a vivid,visual picture of your job, its challenges and triumphs. People will remember the picture you create in their minds, rather than your words.


5. Develop your persuasive powers.

Being professionally accountable means knowing how to influence people. President Dwight Eisenhower, said, “Leadership is the ability to decide what has to be done and then getting people to want to do it.” How do you influence people? One of my clients is Horst Schulze, president of the Ritz Carlton hotels. He advises prospective employees,”We are all ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. Our guests pay our prices to have an experience, and it is your job to be part of that experience. You will never say, ‘That is not in my job description,’ and you will never bring your own problems to work.” Obviously, this works at the Ritz Carlton. Do you have a similar motivator for yourself, your colleagues,and your fellow professionals? Are you persuasive in representing my company,department or association in public?

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The future belongs to the competent. We need to be multifaceted in our competence and become charismatic communicators with technical competence and excellent people skills, especially in negotiating. This means developing the habit of learning everywhere, every day.


Take the initiative. Go meet people who perhaps don’t look like you or think like you. I remember attending a five-day conference where most of the audience members were ministers. As I walked into the coffee shop for breakfast, I looked around to see which group was the most unlike me. I sat down with two Mennonite families, and, over the course of the conference, we became great friends. As I got to know them and enjoyed their conversation, I asked if they would mind telling me what they believed in and why. I realized that, as fascinated as I was to meet them, they were equally fascinated to talk to me.


You inspire others, both personally and professionally, through your actions and the environment you create. When you are professionally accountable, people watch what you’re doing as well as listening to what you’re saying.