What do you mean I can’t be a professional sitting here in my pyjamas?
There are words out there that, although have a clear definition/s, leave a lot open to interpretation and personal judgement. Professional, Profession, Professionalism, all conjure up different images, ideas, thoughts and feelings.
For many people, a professional is still someone in a “white-collar” profession. I remember when I first started as a youth worker; professionals were barriers for young people, often perceived as being “suits” and having authoritative roles. I certainly didn’t class myself as a professional youth worker, I was a youth worker.
Not surprisingly when I asked some young people what professional meant to them, their first reaction was “what?” quickly followed by “professional footballers”. So we explored it a bit further, what was the difference between a professional footballer and an amateur? The conclusion was skill (well that and money). The professional was someone who was really good at what they were doing, they were at the top of their “game” and had spent a lot of time practising and learning how to be better. When I asked them what they would expect from a professional they all agreed that it should be “someone that knows what they’re talking about”, “someone that can help” and that they “don’t talk down to me”.
I then asked a friend as a service user what he thought: “My interpretation of a professional is someone who has been trained to a standard that provides a service to Joe public. A professional has to know what the **** they’re talking about and be able to answer questions and leave you feeling satisfied that they have answered and helped your need, whatever it is:
someone you feel you can trust and have confidence in is important as well.”
Tara, from Tara Newman Coaching, touched on appearance when we were discussing the subject. Just because she has a nose piercing (it’s actually really lovely) and tattoos doesn’t make her less professional but in some professions it may be perceived in that way (even in today’s society). As a youth worker dressing casual fits with the young people nicely, but can still attract funny looks from “suits”. Now, like many artists / crafters / small business owners (especially those working from home), I can spend a lot of time in casuals and /or pyjamas. It doesn’t make me any less professional – no one can see me! I want to be comfortable and relaxed when I’m working, it suits me.
Let’s face it though, just because you dress well and have a qualification, doesn’t mean you conduct yourself in a professional manner or that you are actually able to carry out the role. How many times have you gone to speak to a “professional” and walked away thinking “what the ****?” or thinking how you’ve just wasted your time with an arrogant T***? Have you been left baffled because they have thrown unnecessary jargon at you in an attempt to look clever and actually explained nothing in the process? Or even worse, have you ever walked away angry, feeling dismissed? Have you ever challenged these situations / people? Going back to youth work I have often spoken to people who have presented themselves as professionals, yet I have walked away thinking how clueless they really are!
For Tara “professional means they are a PRO at what they do – knowledge, skills, abilities and they have the confidence to bring that knowledge into the world. They also have a set of personal and professional values that they are guided by…quality of service and standards – integrity” Tara also spoke about something that is really important to me, relationships;
“…the ability to build relationships is important to being a professional”.
Jessica Lorimer added to these points: Having worked in a variety of ‘ultra-professional’ environments for global consultancies, I’d say that professionalism is a combination of being the expert in your industry with a healthy dose of courtesy and also the ability to adapt to a variety of situations.” Jessica also spoke about those who are learning, “who want to become an expert” demonstrating a level of professionalism, showing effective communication skills and eagerness to learn.
I particularly liked the way Rena Williams focused on the individual, and for me summed up a lot of what I feel / think in terms of being a professional. Rena also spoke of integrity, work ethic and the importance of relationships.
“I think professional encompasses YOU. Your conduct, your communication, how well versed you are in your line of work, how you present yourself, your ability to build and maintain relationships, how you show respect for the people you’re working with… someone who does these things well is professional to me, regardless of if they’re wearing a suit or jeans.”
So yes, I AM A PROFESSIONAL!
See what other crafters and artists are saying on the subject, particularly looking at being a professional crafter, over on pages 18 & 19 in the Professional Crafters Guild magazine.