What does being professional mean to you?
To some, it means “Not being an amateur”.
So how does the public differentiate amateurs from professionals?
In some circles, money is the key. Amateurs don’t get paid, professionals do. Â For example, an amateur golfer typically isn’t eligible for prize money in tournaments. Once they decide to go pro, they can’t go back to being an amateur.
If not money, training
For others, amateur can imply (sometimes incorrectly) that someone is less skilled than a professional doing the same task, eg: a pro golfer is surely more consistent and better at their trade than an amateur. Likewise, an amateur welder is more likely to produce cold, poor quality and/or “messy” welds than a professional welder.
In other lines of work, being a professional requires a bit more effort than simply deciding you’d like to get paid. Many professionals require internships, experience, tests and/or certifications to prove their mettle. To become a journeyman (professional) welder, it’s likely that you would first learn as an apprentice with an experienced welder for a year or more.
Despite all of these literal and occasionally artificial steps/barriers that prove something (skills, access to funds, etc), I do not believe that the acts of being paid, taking training, passing tests or earning certifications prove that someone is a professional. Some of these things prove that the local, state and/or Federal government consider the person a professional, but we’re talking more about checking boxes (however legitimate they might be) vs. proving something over time.
To me, a professional is someone who consistently meets goals, avoids (if not eliminating) client surprises and demonstrates an ability to solve problems while encountering unanticipated events – all while dealing with amateurs.
Why the “while dealing with amateurs” part? Because most of us are amateurs in the professional’s field when we’re their client.
Due to circumstances within my control, I’ve been involved in a few real estate transactions over the last month or two.
One of these required reviewing some residential rental property.
During one of these visits, I found doors that didn’t close properly, a microwave and disposal that didn’t work, a missing master bath mirror, loose toilets and cobwebs everywhere – along with a raft of eight-legged houseguests.
These things are not unusual. Agents find these things all the time, particularly in places that have been empty a while. The high-performing professionals do their best to make sure these things are fixed before they take a client to a property.
You may remember the story I tell about theÂ real estate checklistÂ an agent uses. The checklist demonstrates a level of professionalism / experience while making it clear that while things come up during a transactions, the agent has seen it all and will handle it.
In other words, there won’t be surprises they can’t handle. Customers really don’t like surprises.
Again, that Holiday Inn thing
Yes, I’m referring to that “the best surprise is no surprise” thing.
Professionals seldom get surprised by normal things like the property issues I noted above. If they are surprised, they take steps to encounter them in time to deal with them and eliminate problems before a client can see them.
During my visit, the agent was surprised by the number of easily-solvable problems that rental property had. That’s what provoked this discussion. Â This isn’t just a real estate thing – my experience simply makes a good example.
No matter what you do, the most noticeable difference between the amateurs and best professionals in your field is how the pro prepares for and eliminates surprises, unknowns and trouble in general. How they insulate their customers. It’s what people rave about when they recommend you, or grumble about every time they think about the experience they had.
Which of those two discussions do you want to be the subject of?
No matter what
No matter what you do, take a few minutes each week to mull over whatÂ “being a professional” means to you, both as a provider of products and services as well as a consumer/client.
Ask your clients what could have made their last experience with you just a little bit better? What would have made it less annoying?
Finally, what can you take from other experiences you have? Tweak and use them on your own business.