All of us think that we are professionals when it comes to work. We go to the office, focus, put in overtime, bring leftover work home if necessary, and at the end of the month, collect a paycheck. But is that really enough to make you a ‘true’ professional?
Well, first and foremost, true professionals turn up to work every single day — come rain or shine, in sickness and in health, regardless of personal drama or trauma. Second, they stay at work all day, not bolting the moment something tough or unmanageable shows up.
All of that is very basic. Anyone can do that and everyone does. What is it that can make us a cut above? What pushes us over the edge to the area of being indispensable and ultimately CEO or MD material? Trust me, it isn’t dumb luck or daddy’s connections. It takes strategic planning and learning to make the maximum impact in the minimum amount of time.
To begin with, you have to love what you do. Working for money is easy enough, but for most people, it isn’t enough to drive them to excellence. If you are only doing your job for the paycheck, the time will come when you prioritise everything else over your job. And while that may be reasonable, it’s not going to get you to the top.
Patience is another key to success. If we can’t handle the stresses and demands of our workplace, we’re not going to go far. Every professional deals with hardship and adversity. Sometimes the boss just doesn’t like you and won’t support even a single idea of yours. There might be failure after failure and no way up or out. This is where you stick it out and work twice as hard. Many times, it is just a test to see if you have what it takes to belong at the top of the pyramid. Whatever it is, it is certainly a learning experience and will only help you grow. Never quit when you’re down. If you’re going to walk, then it should be when you are on top of your game. This way, you get respect and not pity.
Chaos is the enemy of the ambitious professional. Keep your desk clean and your head clear. Accepting and facing your fears is fundamental. Everybody has their weak spots, some things that they simply cannot handle. Reinvention is another ignored aspect of most professionals’ lives. We are so busy just going through the motions of daily life that we never improve our skill set.
One last thing to remember is humility. Success can be your biggest enemy if you let it go to your head. Just because you have succeeded, doesn’t mean you gloat and possibly make enemies along the way. Professionals can be divided into three groups. There is the 80 per cent that is just looking to get by. Then there is the 19 per cent that gets to upper management level and pushes the limits. That final one percent, though, is what we should all be aiming for. As my psychology professor used to say, “There is nothing worse in life than accepting that you are average.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2014.