We live in a world of slash jobs. Sci-fi author / math teacher. Flautist / tech entrepreneur. Fitness instructor / actor. Slash, slash, slash.
Does the slash confuse you? It confused me for a long time.
If I slash myself, maybe that means I’m not good at ANY of it? Ya know, the whole, “if you’re good at everything, you’re great at nothing” kinda mentality.
But that didn’t quite add up over time. I was looking around and seeing multi-dimensional people who were creating multi-dimensional careers. They couldn’t check only one career box because they were busy expressing themselves at a nuanced and authentic level. The old industrial way of—get a job, wait 40 years, get a gold watch—just doesn’t happen for our generation. We put together the pieces. We strategize around the heart. We are customizing every experience in our lives from our Bitmojis to our careers.
So it got me thinking (and truthfully, this is a question that comes up a lot for my tribe):
Am I a professional?
With so much jumping around and coalescing, what are the standards by which we’re measuring our pro-ness? It ain’t a certificate, I can tell you that. And it might not even be a regular paycheck (yet). Is it an email signature? You see the rabbit hole into which we could jump.
We’re in a nuanced economy and we need a nuanced way of looking at things. Professionalism is a state of mind. It’s a commitment to your craft. And it’s something that only you can define for yourself.
So, to help that process along a little bit, here are seven signs you’re a professional:
You’re a pro when… you get a hater. If you’re doing something that someone doesn’t like and they feel comfortable letting you know they don’t like it, you have made it, my friend. It means you’re doing something someone can react to, negatively or positively, and doing the thing out loud and in the world is professionalism.
You’re a pro when… someone calls you the “go-to” person for something. If someone has reached out to you and said, “Hey, I think you’re the person I should talk to about this!” then you’re a pro. You’ve put your name next to your work and people can find you. We go on the hunt for pros, not amateurs.
You’re a pro when… you sit at your proverbial desk and resist the urge to get up and do something else. You might get distracted, you might get creative block, you might not know what to do next, but you stay in the seat. You stay with the work, even when it’s not flowing. You stay because you know it’s part of the job.
You’re a pro when… it doesn’t matter if anyone sees your work. You do it anyway. You make it and create it because you haveta. Committing to the act of working on your craft when there are no guarantees that anyone will see it or care is the ultimate act of professionalism.
You’re a pro when… you have a plan to face discomfort. You know resistance will come and obstacles will be faced, but you’re strategically dealing with them. You don’t take the highs as “so high” and you don’t take the lows as “so low.” You know it’s an ebb and a flow and you’re equipped to ride the wave.
You’re a pro when… you let yourself take risks. You try and figure it out. You experiment. You don’t settle for what exists, you want to make something brand new. Being a professional isn’t about punching in and punching out, that’s being a cog in a machine. You could do that without professionalism. Being a pro means being mindful, aware and forward-thinking.
You’re a pro when… you fail. Ain’t no glory gained if you don’t go for it and fall on your face a few times. If you aren’t making yourself a lil’ queasy with your work because you know there’s the possibility of failure, then you aren’t quite pro yet. You’re a pro because you go for it again and again and again. Failure be damned.
Feeling like you want to up your pro game? I made a list of the 10 habits you need to be a pro in whatever you’re doing. There are actionable steps in here, so grab that freebie: