Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Duke chapter.


professional – (n.) a person who belongs to one of the professions, especially a learned profession. (adj.) following an occupation as a means of livelihood or gain.

The definition of the word professional merely refers to working or being at work, while also being synonymous with a form of conduct. To be professional means to present yourself in a manner deemed appropriate for the setting while leaving everything else at the door. Yet, for many, that’s easier said than done.

Without even taking into account the various -isms that may impact our ability to function in work settings, whether active hostility or norms that further subjugate marginalized workers, sometimes it’s just difficult to identify what makes someone truly professional. As someone who loves creative writing, journalism, and STEM, I often worry about these interests being incompatible. Will sharing my poetry online make me seem less credible as a researcher? Are personal articles like this one incongruous with my reporting, even when they draw upon other sources? 

I know the answer to both of these questions is no – I’ve identified plenty of journalists who write creative pieces and scientists who are journalists and people who do all three. Yet, I am continuously haunted by the thought that in order to have my work taken seriously, I have to sacrifice the other things that I care about. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Professionalism should mean being open to new ideas, treating the people around you with respect, and doing the best work you can do rather than a rigid set of ideals. Expressing one’s self in a healthy way should never be considered unprofessional, and any place that prioritizes the appearance of being professional over the wellbeing and happiness of the people that work there is not a place you have to stay in.

Nadia is a current sophomore and Campus Correspondent for the Duke chapter. Her primary academic interests lie in the natural sciences, and writing has always been one of her favorite activities. She enjoys exploring how concepts such as gender and race influence pop culture, healthcare and education.