How Do You Define a "Professional"?

Recently, I was discussing with someone the Brooklyn public library's availability of the Adobe Suite on Macs. To my surprise, she was adamantly opposed to this notion, exclaiming that there would be no way to distinguish between the "professional" and "any old person" claiming to be so.

I hesitated because I knew what she was referring to. I've seen it on Etsy, Shutterstock, and similarly mass stock, templated sites where someone who isn't qualified for the job is submitting vector icons that aren't vectored, let alone pathfinded or separated onto layers. I've witnessed people promoting logo design capabilities by smooshing two letters together and calling it a day. These kinds of un-certified wannabes are frustrating to the people who have learned, in some capacity, the "right" and "wrong" in graphic design in terms of technical skills.

However, claiming to be a professional too often refers to hard skill sets when it should also refer to professional behavior. Belittling or degrading people who maybe don't know as much as you is the lowest and least form of professionalism. In being a part of graphic design, a profession often referred to as "visual communication", isn't the goal precisely about dialogue and opening up pathways for opportunity? Communication is a balance between speaking and hearing. It's about learning something new from one another, sharing ideas on both ends. You cannot claim to be a graphic designer, let alone a professional, if you refuse to strengthen your skills in open dialogue. It seems to me that if a professional chooses to judge someone who isn't as knowledgeable in the subject at hand, and yet doesn't offer to teach what they know to that individual, he/she has just closed the door on the very basis of graphic design: conversation. Instead of criticizing someone with less developed technical skills, why not offer to help? Use your expertise to give suggestions, to advise, to listen. A selfish designer is not a professional, but an empathetic one just might be.