This matter about professionalism at work was raised recently, and I thought I have some 2 cents to share about, particularly to people who are just starting out their work life. This is not about professionalism in the context of your job specification, but about the work itself that you do for your company. They are not the same thing. For example, a real estate agent could be very professional in his conduct with his customers, but could be lesser so in his duties to his company.
What I’m talking about is that you have a duty to make a positive contribution toward the success of your company. In today’s highly competitive globalized economy, everyone is expected to “value-add”. Just “doing your part” is not enough. Many people, however, think it is okay to just do their part… or in other words, to get by with the bare minimum to meet their KPI.
If there were just three levels of ranking, “does not meet requirements”, “meets requirements”, and “exceeds requirements”, you should understand that just merely accomplishing your goals and achieving your KPI expectations only earns you “meets requirements”. I would actually take this one step further: If this is all a very capable performer achieved, then that person has underperformed. Yes, it sounds contradictory… meets requirements, but yet is underperforming. That’s because this person would just merely be “getting by”.
Of course, different people work for different reasons. Clearly, some people are just working to earn a salary every month. They are happy with their salary, and they are happy with what they do, and they have no wish to do more. You can’t really fault them. They are doing their job. You also do need these people around.
The problem is, as you (the person and/or the company) move up the value chain, you are expected to do more than just your job. In other words, your job is to do more than what your job specifications say.
I’m not saying you need to sell your soul and devote your life to your company, but you need to put in the effort to chip in that little extra. I realize some people might consider this “very high expectations”, but I don’t think so. Doing your job well is just merely expected. Remember that. Just doing your job well is a fundamental expectation.
Then, when I say to do “more than what your job specifications say”, I really need to qualify that it has to be in-line with the job or company objectives. That’s because there is a demographic of the workforce who are highly talented, brilliant performers, who can do plenty of extra… but just not what is really needed. They do it for themselves, not for their company. This group of people can do what you need them to do, but they will not do it. They have their own agenda.
Let me say a little about short-changing. An example of short-changing is using your work hours to do other personal things. So you do come to work on-time, and you don’t go off early… but you aren’t really working during the whole time. Most people do it at some point or other. Some people rationalize that it is alright because you make up for the lost time through working late, or working at home. That could actually be alright, particularly if the nature of your work allows for such flexibility. What is not alright is when you take advantage of the flexibility so that your other activities interfere with your work.
There are, of course, other angles to this matter of professionalism at work. I don’t plan to write a long essay on this subject, but just to share this aspect of it. How are you adding value?