December 6, 2016
Act like a professional
This will be my final blog on the subject of job readiness. The topic is professionalism.
What does professionalism mean? One dictionary defines it as “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.” That’s a good starting point from which to examine trade professionalism because it pertains to both technical skills and personal conduct.
Customers expect someone they hire to install, maintain or repair equipment to have the technical skills necessary to do the job. If you don’t handle the tools of your trade very well, you have no business working in that trade. Yet there’s more to it than that.
An important element of professionalism is to keep up with new developments in the field. You wouldn’t want to be treated by a doctor whose knowledge of medicine ended with what he or she learned in medical school decades ago. Nor would you want to be defended by a lawyer who hasn’t kept up with recent high court rulings.
Trade professionals also need to keep up with new developments in their field. Every year brings new products, tools and techniques with which to do your job. Buildings codes constantly change and trade professionals need to keep up with them.
To a large extent it will be up to your employer to provide the continual training to keep up with new developments in your field. But don’t leave everything up to employers, who may or may not provide continuing education, and who you may or may not be working for a year from now. Take it upon yourself to subscribe to trade publications in your field, to attend trade shows in your area, to speak with suppliers and vendors about what’s new and what they see coming.
I would not want to hire any trade worker for a job in my home whose knowledge stopped at what he or she learned as an apprentice.
As for the person conduct side of professionalism, I’ve already addressed it in my previous three blogs. Let’s review these elements of professionalism:
- You must be respectful of time – yours, your employer’s and your customer’s. You need to put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay and complete assigned jobs as efficiently as possible – without sacrificing quality of workmanship. Customers don’t want to wait all day for a job that the best pros can perform in an hour.
- Great work requires focus and concentration. Another way to put it is “pride in craftsmanship.” You want to produce work that, when finished, you can stand back and hold your head high bragging, “I did that.” Another element of craftsmanship is safety. As a trade professional you need to be familiar with safe work practices and not take chances that might cause injury to yourself, co-workers or customers.
- The final element of personal conduct is the way you get along with people. We refer to “bedside manners” when describing how doctors interact with their patients. Trade professionals in the service sector especially must develop similar techniques to put people at ease, listen to them describe their system ailments and prescribe the best course of treatment.
Personal appearance also falls in to this category. Sometimes the work you do will end up with soiled and dirty clothes, but that’s not the way you want to present yourself to anyone at the start of a job. This responsibility, too, will often fall to your employer to provide clean uniforms, shoe covers and grooming standards. But if your employer fails to live up to those responsibilities, do what you can to take charge of your own professional appearance.
In my next blog I’ll continue with the subject of professionalism, but addressing it from the employer’s perspective.