Put The ‘Pro’ In Professional

When it comes to the so-called real world, the dividing line between professional and non-professional, I submit, is blurrier. Like professional athletes, we in industry do our jobs for money. In all my years in metalworking, I’ve never met a soul who works for free.

What defines a professional? The definition is relatively simple in the world of sports. For example, Tiger Woods is a professional golfer, I am not. We both play the game, but he gets paid gazillions of dollars for his efforts while I maintain my amateur status with convincing consistency. In sports, athletes who play for money (arguably too much money) are professional, and those who don’t are non-professionals.

When it comes to the so-called real world, the dividing line between professional and non-professional, I submit, is blurrier. Like professional athletes, we in industry do our jobs for money. In all my years in metalworking, I’ve never met a soul who works for free. I know some who feel they work for next to nothing, but even so, there is some compensation contributed for their efforts. Unlike in athletics, a paycheck alone does not define a professional in the business world.

Many consider a professional as one who is decreed as such by degree or degrees earned through education. These folks get to tout things like M.D., J.D., M.B.A. or C.P.A. as part of their personal identity. By virtue of having received advanced degrees in their respective fields, society readily accepts them as professionals and assumes they have acquired specific skills and knowledge commensurate to such status.

By virtue of exclusivity, are the rest of us more humbly educated and engaged individuals barred from being professional? I take issue with this cultural attitude of anointment in favor of a broader definition of professional. My experience in and around our field of metalworking manufacturing tells me many can, and indeed do, achieve professional status in their jobs.

All one has to do is look at some so-called professional athletes that pull in major bucks, and watch them “dog it” on the field at the game you paid major bucks to attend. How about when a rookie holds out
for a bigger check or superstars who become too super to attend practice? Is this the behavior of a professional?

Is it professional for a doctor to over-prescribe medicine, ignore phone calls or keep patients waiting ridiculous amounts of time because the office is overbooked? How about the lawyer who rips off clients or the accountant that embezzles the life savings of a trusting couple who engaged who they thought was a professional to help them with financial planning for retirement?

What I’m driving at here is that, for me, professionalism is less about what you do and more about how you do what you do. This, of course, opens up the field of potential professionals, which is my point. Please don’t misunderstand me: There are many very professional athletes, doctors, lawyers and accountants. However, in my mind the fact that one’s field falls within a pre-defined category of profession doesn’t make every person in it a professional.

I see professionalism as earned daily by behavior and, well, professionalism. It’s earned by taking care of business in a manner commensurate with the requirements of the business. It’s really about competence. This includes ethics and morals as applied to the job, whether you are operating a machining cell or operating on a heart.

Paraphrasing the kid in the movie “The Sixth Sense,” I see professional people, everywhere. I’m blessed to work daily with a group of consummate professionals, none of whom is a paid athlete, doctor, lawyer or accountant. Our team here at Production Machining goes about the business of putting out this magazine with a sense of purpose and a sense of humor. It may not be brain surgery, but it’s just as important to us. My guess is you professionals reading this feel similarly.