What makes a professional?

There isn’t a universally agreed definition of what ‘being professional’ really means. 

That’s probably because the mix of traits that express professionalism varies depending on where you live in the world, your generation, even the industry you work in. Personally, I think it’s a much bigger deal than your technical capabilities or how you present yourself. For me, being a professional is the sum of your knowledge, skills and values. 

Our values speak volumes about how we work, our approach to our responsibilities and managing relationships – much more than qualifications or job titles could ever do. It’s also our values that can drive us toward a particular occupation. It’s fair to say that many of us came into this profession because we share a belief about what is important.  

Our work crosses projects, sectors, and even oceans, which means constants can be difficult to find. So if our values and ethics can be that essential point of consistency, we won’t go far wrong. Acting in accordance with our values is the difference between those who say they are a professional, and those who behave like they are. When we – all 14,500 of us – exhibit our high standards of behaviour, the impact of that aggregated demonstration is a force to be reckoned with. And at a time when IEMA is on course to become a Chartered body, it’s even more essential that each one of us is able to confidently stand up and say “this is what I stand for”.

We will be talking about values, ethics and professionalism throughout the whole of September, our first ‘Month of Professional Conduct in Focus’. While this is always a vital theme, it’s important we have a prompt to debate and challenge the issues of trust and professional behaviour. This month is our focal point to do just that; a nudge to get together to talk about professional ethics. 

As part of this focus, we are asking you to sign up to your refreshed Code of Professional Conduct. After many months of review, the new set of commitments is now live. Signing up to the code – as I have done – is your demonstration that ethics are central to how you work. You can find out more about the issue of professional conduct and your new Code over the following pages, and across a whole range of activity this month. I hope you’ll get involved. #IClickedTheCode


Tim Balcon is the CEO of IEMA

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