Are You Serious about your job?

Edition: October 2005 - Vol 13 Number 10
Article#: 2239
Author:  Dave Kahle

Ah, if only the people around us were more professional. Our lives would be easier, our businesses would grow more effortlessly and we’d find our jobs more fulfilling. But what does it mean to be more professional? More important, what can we do to make sure that we, and our associates, are becoming ever more professional?

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a professional is a person who is “worthy of the high standards of a profession.” And a profession is “a vocation or occupation requiring advanced training… and usually involving mental rather than manual work.”

There are some key words here. Let’s focus on these: high standards. The word “standards” implies there are discernable ways people consistently behave that sets them apart as members of a profession. And the word “high” implies that they do these things better than average.

To consistently behave in ways that are better than the average, i.e. to achieve high standards, is not easy. In our rapidly changing, complex economy, achieving high standards is not an event we mark, rather it is a continual process that calls on us to persistently and positively change and grow. That’s a major challenge. And that challenge calls for us to develop one of the foundational characteristics of true professionals: We must be serious about our occupations.

Some make light of this foundational requirement. “The job is only a job,” they may say. “It’s a means to an end. Just do the basics in order to keep your boss off your back. Real life is lived outside the confines of your occupation.”

If you share these sentiments, that’s fine. You’re just not a professional.

Understand that I’m not suggesting you work excessive hours to the detriment of your family. It’s not about the quantity; it’s about the quality. A professional understands that we work 40 to 55 hours a week, and we spend more time on the job than in almost any other endeavor. Our occupations, just in terms of hours, truly fill one of the biggest pieces of our lives. To be serious about our occupations doesn’t require us to invest more time. It does require us to use that time more effectively. If we’re going to live life fully, we need to be serious about that big chunk of time.

To allow it to pass us by untouched is to waste much of our lives. To coast through, oblivious to the daily challenges to become more of what we can become, is to squander rich opportunities for personal growth. Our underlying attitude of seriousness will show itself in the way that we behave. Consistently, over time, we’ll act in ways that show the people around us our commitment.

Here are two indications of the degree to which we are serious about our occupations:

1) We’ll want to do better in everything we do.

Better? Better than what? Better than we did before. We’ll exhibit a never-ending quest to improve our performance in every variable, every project, every transaction, every relationship and every detail. I call this the characteristic of “personal discontent.” Our personal status quo is never acceptable.

That’s not to say that we can’t celebrate and enjoy our success. We certainly should. But after we’ve congratulated ourselves for our excellent performances, we then need to take a deep breath, and recommit to doing it better next time.

That applies to managers, executives and leaders of organizations. I’m often asked if there are any attributes that identify a potential client for my company’s services. What does a good prospect look like? I’ve found one necessary trait: an executive or executive team that is ambitious for the growth of the company. In other words, a leader who is discontent. Regardless of the degree of current success, discontent in the executive office is the surest indicator of a company on the move.

It’s true for every individual and every organization at every stage of an organization. A professional executive is discontent with his organization’s performance. A professional manager is discontent with his team’s results. A professional of any kind is continually discontent with his performance. At every level, in every occupation, the professionals are always striving to do it better the next time.

We’ll seek opportunities and relationships that will challenge us to grow.

James Allen said, “Men are often interested in improving their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves. They, therefore, remain bound.”

This observation of the mass of people does not apply to professionals. As professionals, we distinguish ourselves by our dedication to personal growth. It’s the natural and logical progression from the state of continual discontent.

It’s one thing to be discontent; it’s another to do something about it. And, while it is possible to be discontent about our circumstances, a professional realizes that his skills, attitudes and behaviors shape his circumstances. So, the solution to changing your circumstances is, ultimately, to change yourself. A professional understands this and seeks continually for opportunities and relationships that will stimulate him to grow.

Again, this shows itself in a number of ways. Professionals take guidance and direction from their managers. Professionals implement ideas and skills they gain from training programs and seminars. Professionals are always reading something that prompts them to grow and develop. Professionals aren’t afraid to try something different, to leave their comfort zones. Professionals seek cohorts that stimulate them to think by joining small groups and Internet communities.

Add these two characteristics together, and you begin to gain a portrait of a true professional: Professionals are serious about their occupations.

About Dave Kahle, The Growth Coach: Dave Kahle is a consultant and trainer who helps his clients to increase their sales and improve their sales productivity. He speaks from real-world experience, having been the No. 1 salesperson in the country for two companies in two distinct industries. Kahle has trained thousands of salespeople to be more successful in the Information Age economy. He’s the author of more than 500 articles, a monthly e-zine, and four books. His latest is “10 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople.” He has a gift for creating powerful training events that get audiences thinking differently about sales.

Kahle’s “Thinking About Sales” E-zine features content-filled, motivating articles, practical tips for immediate improvements, useful resources and helpful tips to help increase sales. Join for NOTHING online at

You can reach Kahle at:
The DaCo Corp.,
3736 West River Dr.,
Comstock Park, Mich. 49321,
(800) 331-1287 or (616) 451-9377;
Fax: (616) 451-9412;,