Are you serious about your job?
"I wish my people were more professional,” executives and managers often commiserate to me. Even with those who don't voice it, that unspoken yearning often hovers just under the surface of their conversation.
Ah, if only the people around us were more professional. Our lives would be easier, our businesses would grow more effortlessly, we'd find our jobs more fulfilling…the list of dramatic benefits can go on and on. But what does it mean to be more professional? More importantly, what can we do to make sure that we, and our associates, are becoming ever more professional?
According to Webster's New World Dictionary, a professional is a person who is "worthy of the high standards of a profession.” And a profession is, "a vocation or occupation requiring advanced training …and usually involving mental rather than manual work.”
There are some key words here. Let's focus on these: High standards. The word "standards” implies that there are discernable ways that people consistently behave that set us apart as members of our profession. And the word "high” implies that we do these things better than the average.
To consistently behave in ways that are better than the average, i.e. to achieve high standards, is not easy. In our rapidly changing, ever more complex economy, achieving high standards is not an event which we mark, rather it is a continuous process which calls on us to persistently and positively change and grow. That's a major challenge. And that challenge calls for us to develop one of the foundational characteristics of true professionals: We must be serious about our occupations.
In other words, we must understand that our occupations are challenging, with high expectations of discernable standards, and we must consistently want to do better – we must be dedicated to succeeding.
There are those of your associates who make light of this foundational requirement. "The job is only a job,” they may say. "A means to an end. Just do the basics in order to keep your boss off your back. Real life is lived outside the confines of your occupation.”
I can certainly understand these sentiments. And if you share them, that's fine. You're just not a professional.
Understand that I'm not suggesting that you work excessive hours to the detriment of your family. It's not about the quantity, it's about the quality. A professional understands that we work 40 – 55 hours a week, and that we spend more time on the job than in almost any other endeavor. Our occupations, just in terms of hours, truly fill one of the biggest pieces of our lives. To be serious about our occupations doesn't require us to invest more time. Rather, it does require us to use that time more effectively. If we're going to live life fully, we need to be serious about that big chunk of time.
To allow it to pass us by untouched is to waste much of our lives. To coast through, oblivious to the daily challenges to become more of what we can become, is to squander rich opportunities for personal growth. To be anything less than serious about our occupations is, frankly, a shame.
If we are serious about our occupations, we'll see ourselves acting that out in a number of ways. In other words, our underlying attitude of seriousness will show itself in the way that we behave. Consistently, over time, we'll act in ways that show the people around us our commitment.
For a longer version of this post, which includes the two characteristics that mark professionals, click here.
Dave Kahle is one of the world's leading sales authorities. He's written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as "one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.”