Like a pro

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Why there is only one real measurement for professionalism

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. October 6, 2015

What makes someone professional? That is a question all up-and-coming employees want to know. They spend hours fine-tuning their resume, they buy a new wardrobe, they practice their handshake over and over, and they even show up 15 minutes early for meetings and interviews, but, in the end, none of that matters except consistency.

Being professional is not a switch you turn on and off when you are working. Being professional is an attitude towards all things, regardless if there is a paycheque at the end or not. The ability to treat every task—whether it’s finishing a report, communicating a business plan, or meeting a friend for lunch—with equal importance is what makes someone valued, and therefore professional.

There is nothing more prized in the workplace than an employee who is consistently accountable. If you say you’ll do something, it’s your job to make sure it is done. If you can’t accomplish the task on your own or in time, don’t feel bad. Being professional does not mean that you have perfect foresight.  And being accountable does not mean doing everything yourself. A professional needs to meet hurdles with competency, not expertise. When employers are hiring, they are rarely looking for specialists; rather, they are looking for those with the capability of asking for help when they need it.

If you think being a professional is being a perfectionist, working overtime, and straining over every little detail—like what to wear and what to say—then you will never operate at your fullest potential. The pros know that, given time, opportunities, and experience, skills will undoubtedly form and gaps will fill in. There is raw talent, sure, but in a workplace, repetition and routines rule, and learning a task and accomplishing it with consistency is often what makes you a pro.

Yes, you hate your job and you are finding it harder and harder to apply the same amount of enthusiasm you had the first few weeks after you were hired. I have one suggestion for you: quit. If you can’t apply consistency to your craft—and you should live in a world where every job is a craft, where improvement is as important as completion—you are harming yourself. If work ethic were a tangible object, you’d be smashing it into a thousand pieces.

You hear it every day: the job market is a scary, volatile place. Only the best get hired. That is not true, or in a way, only semi-true. When we think of the best athletes, we think of those who are consistently showing up to every game or tournament. They might be scoring goals, stopping shots, or just making par every time, regardless, you can always bet on them. When people look at you will they bet on you to succeed? Where’s your track record to show it?

Being professional does not start after you graduate or get your job or receive your first paycheque. Being professional starts the moment you wake up every day.

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