What does “professional” mean to you?Leave a Comment
Another in an occasional series of posting things I wrote for the Elated newsletter.
I’m beginning to suspect that “being professional” is a movable feast, and means very different things to different people. For some in management, it seems to mean being neat and tidy, toeing the company line, keeping your distance and showing “strong leadership”, whatever that is. Equally, for some designers, it seems to mean practically nothing, beyond owning a MacBook Pro.
I’ve often felt at odds with both of these extremes, but there is a lot to be learned from basic common courtesy, for example turning up when you say you will, and being nice. This kind of fundamental behaviour should be obvious, and will get you a long way. No-one wants to work with someone unreliable and unpleasant.
Here’s what I think being professional means in our industry:
- Be really good at what you do, and focus on doing great work.
- Listen to what people are saying, and learn to read between the lines.
- Be prepared to say “no” to bad ideas, but try to do it nicely. Stand up for the users of the thing you’re making.
- Learn new stuff, and keep up to date.
- Do stuff when you say you will. If you have a deadline, hit it.
- Be pragmatic. Nothing ships as perfect.
- Be flexible.
- Take time off. If you’re working every weekend, you’re likely to be churning out rubbish after awhile.
- Don’t have silly creative tantrums, you’re not an artist. If you think something’s wrong, frame it as a business issue.
- Try not to swear in meetings til the client does it first.
- Be nice, and show up on time (it’s worth repeating).
Here’s what it doesn’t mean to me:
- Being neat and tidy. Anyone who says otherwise is concentrating on the wrong things. No-one’s meeting the queen here.
- Your hairstyle? No, I don’t care about that either.
- Owning a MacBook Pro.
- Always saying “yes” to the client. Or indeed to colleagues.
- Your sex, race, sexual orientation or class.
I’d sum this up as “be nice, be really good and be reliable, and forget the rest”, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we should try to blend into our organisations, always say yes and keep our heads down at all costs. What does being professional mean to you?