I have to admit I do not like the term ‘professional’, I think it is a term that many people hide behind to make themselves look good, feel good or to validate themselves.
If you get paid to a job it seems that you are allowed to call yourself professional, regardless of if you are the best or worst at your job which I don’t think is fair. If someone were to come up to me and tell me that they were a professional, my reply would be “but how good are you at your job?”
I have worked in many paid and non paid positions, and I have to say I have worked with a lot of volunteers, who have acted more professional and done their job more professionally than someone people I have worked with, who have been paid to do a job.
If we are to use this nebulous term ‘professional’ we need to use it to reflect someone’s quality of work not someone’s income. A volunteer has as much right as a paid worker to be called professional, if their work and work rate reflects a professional standard.
If you are a volunteer, just because you aren’t getting paid you should still be striving to be professional and take pride in your work. Don’t let the term volunteer stop you from thinking that you can’t be better than people who get paid to do similar work. The great thing is if you can learn and do these things as a volunteer it is going to help you in your current paid work or to find new paying work, as you will be much more employable.
If you are in paid employment don’t just sit back and get comfortable because you think that this makes you a professional. Go out and earn that label, show the people that you work with and work for that you are professional in everything that you do. Never forget that there are people in non-paying jobs or out of work that would love to be in your position and do what you do, so don’t take it for granted.