The meaning of work: Profession

By on November 1, 2016

professionProfession has two definitions that give insight into the mindset it carries with it; 1) a type of job that requires special education, training or skill; and 2) the act of declaring or publicly claiming a belief, faith or opinion.

Being a professional carries with it the idea that your special knowledge or skills have earned you the right to profess your ideas to others (and the implication that others should heed them).

On the positive side, this work mindset leads people to pursue additional education and training. Professions such as law and medicine require extensive education, and many professional associations require their members to accumulate continuing education credits on an annual basis.

These criteria are essential for those who rely on professionals in areas such as law, finance and technology as it ensures their skills and knowledge are current enough to be effective and avoid costly mistakes.

Unfortunately, many people pursue a profession for the wrong reasons. Lawyers, accountants, and doctors, for example, may pursue these professions because of the status, income and presumed stability associated with them without really considering whether they will enjoy the work they will be doing on a daily basis once they complete their training. If they do not enjoy their day-to-day work, the money or status that led them to favor that career path can quickly become irrelevant as a source of satisfaction. What’s worse, the more money and status a profession brings with it, the more likely a person is to stick with it despite a lack of fulfillment.

If you have a profession and are starting to see the signs of dissatisfaction emerge, don’t ignore them. The longer you wait to start thinking about your next move, the more difficult it will be. It might seem cliché, but life really is too short to waste it spending half or more of your waking hours doing something that you dread. My own brother, who died suddenly at 48 within one month of finding out he had cancer, is a testament to how quickly our time can be up. Fortunately for him, the changes he made in the last 10 years of his life allowed him to feel like he was retired, despite the fact that he was still working because he was living where he wanted to live and doing what he wanted to do.
Even if you don’t have a profession, your beliefs around this word may be impacting you. Do you undervalue your work and hesitate to share your opinions because you don’t feel you have the professional training to back them up? Many of the world’s most successful business people such as Richard Branson and Steve Jobs never completed college, so clearly you don’t need an official degree to have great ideas. Stop hiding behind your lack of formal training or qualifications and roll up your sleeves to solve challenges and create opportunities in your work. The more you lean in to the work that you have, the more likely it is you will experience higher levels of fulfillment and success in your field.

Some of my clients long to pursue a particular profession, but their belief that it will take too long to get that training stops them from pursuing it. Education does require an investment of both time and money, so it is important to take some time to consider whether or not you are going to enjoy the work you will be doing after you complete your training. Prior to investing in significant education, look for ways you could start doing similar work without the formal training. You could volunteer, do an internship, job shadow someone in the field, or do information interviews with people who are already doing the work. This will help you to get a sense of the pros and cons of working in that profession on a daily basis.

To be clear, I am not against education. Continuing to learn and grow throughout all stages of your life is essential. What I am for is doing what you love sooner rather than later. Looking for ways to experience the work before investing thousands of dollars and hours in obtaining a professional qualification not only gives you a chance to try it on for size, it helps to keep those “chronic students” out there honest with themselves. Some people use the constant pursuit of additional education as a way to hide from putting themselves out into the real world of work. If they are out working, they can use the “need” for more education as an excuse to hold off on making their mark in the here and now.

Ultimately, being professional is more about the commitment to get and stay on top of your chosen field, regardless of your level of formal education. If you love what you do, you are far more likely to invest the effort it takes, every day, to be at the top of your game.

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