Sanjeev Kotnala: Are you Professional Enough?

07 Aug,2019

By Sanjeev Kotnala


In 2018, VistaPrint released the TVC ‘Professional’. It uses a very myopic definition and understanding of the term Professional.

Tailoring is a profession, and many tailors are professional. In the PrintVista TVC, the young tailor is rejected by his potential future father-in-law. The father of the would-be-bride wants his daughter to marry a professional.

It is a cue for the prospective groom, the ‘Very Good Tailor’ to flash multiple branding items. He presents a visiting card. Then goes on to offer a branded pen, cap and T-shirt. The father is wonderstruck. He now speaks a different language. He wants to know the marriage date.

The branded items flashed by the young tailor does magic. It changes him from a mere smart tailor to a professional tailor. There is newfound respect.

On the surface of it, VistaPrint is doing its job. There is nothing wrong or illegal. No point bothering ASCI with it.


It raises a question. Who is a professional? Sometimes it is a question of impressions. A smartly dressed person at work easily qualifies as a professional. Though appropriate dressing for the job is a part of being professional, it is not the end of it.

Professional and non-professional jobs are mostly differentiated by the need for a higher level of learning. It then tends to exclude people who are great at their work, learning the skills on the job or inheriting a vocation. It is restrictive in nature and leads to unnecessary polarisation.

For some, Professional is equated to advanced degrees or certificates hung on the work area.


Going by the dictionary, a professional is both an adjective and a noun.

As an adjective, it defines that the person relates to or belongs to a profession. He or she is engaged in a specified activity as the main paid occupation rather than as an amateur. As a noun, it merely relates to a person engaged or qualified in a profession. And hence,  the tailor, bus driver, mechanic or anyone engaged or qualified in a profession is professional.

The VistaPrint communication blatantly discards the definition.

In our country, Rahul Bose’s two bananas, Viral Kohli’s squad picture without Rohit or the religion of a Zomato delivery person creates much buzz in the social media. However, the professionals have nothing to comment on Vistaprint commercial. Maybe, they don’t consider such communication diluting their tag.


Being professional is easy. ‘True Professional’ is a different ball game. It requires exceptional job performance and a distinctive attitude. The attitude called professionalism.


On a superficial level, professionalism is about behaviour and delivery. It includes compassion for others, responding appropriately to the emotional response, demonstrating respect for others and being helpful to people in need.

At the same time,  it is about being reliable, competent and ethical in work situations.

There are simple traits that qualify professionalism. Ethical behaviour based on intrinsic knowledge. The capability to differentiate between what is right and wrong and the confidence to act on it. An altruistic attitude demonstrated by responsible conduct.  Knowledge and expertise in their roles. Continuous engagement aimed at intellectual development.


Now, this is becoming tough. Many of us will fail the above definition. Most of us are okay as far as appropriately dressing for the role is concerned. However, it is different when it comes to respecting other people time. Are we on time for assignments and engagements? Do we really work efficiently? Do we deliver on promised timelines? Sorry to have touched a raw nerve.


Here is a small test. Answer the questions and check how professional you are? More the Yeses, more professional you are. Now no one is asking you the score, so be as transparently naked and honest as possible.

1. Do you have a positive attitude towards work and life?

2. Are you reliable in your role?

3. Do you always try to deliver above expectations?

4. Do you engage and purposefully work towards developing your capability and skill?

5. Do you regularly pause, reflect on your work, absorb the learnings and move on?

6. Do you communicate clearly?

7. Do you have the required written and oral communication skills?

8. Do you speak up when you see something wrong happening? Ethically or morally or process-oriented.

9. Are you open to critic?

10. Do you willing to accept feedback?

11. Are you respectful to your co-workers across levels?

12. Do you discourage politics at work?

13. Do you encourage or discourage work gossip and rumormongering?

14. Do you promote gender equality?

15. Do you raise voice against sexual harassment at work?

16. Do you know the difference between being professionally friendly and friendly Professional?


A score below 12 should make you think. As professionalism is not a percentage score. Just like there is no half-pregnancy or half-cancer, you are professional, or you are not!



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