At the beginning of this year, I set out to finish this “Enough” series that I started two years ago. There were several topics that I had not seemed to find the time to address but I realize that it wasn’t lack of time, it was lack of readiness.
One of these Enough topics is “Professional Enough.” I’ve decided to tackle that today because it’s time. Because I’ve realized that the reason I didn’t want to tackle it is because I didn’t believe it was true. Years of abuse in a long-time jobs led me to unconsciously not believe I am a writer. I’m over that. A few years of indecision, identity crisis and wandering made me feel like I wasn’t a true professional even though I was a small business owner, for crying out loud. I’m over that, too.
The first question I have to ask myself with all of these “enough” posts is, what is enough? The idea of being enough is being not too much or too little. It’s about filling a role in the way that you’re meant to fill it. It’s about being the person you were designed to be. This is both humbling and empowering.
- meeting professional standards with my work,
- treating my clients and other associates with professional respect in my own style,
- knowing my niche, and
- being willing to learn new skills, new niches.
Meeting professional standards
I was trained as a journalist and was well-known for being fair, balanced and overall talented at my job. That was the professional standard for that industry but all that changed when I essentially changed industries. Not to say that I am not to be fair, it’s just a different kind.
I’ve learned the professional standards for each aspect of what I do now and if I have questions, I ask. This includes both technical skills such as using proper writing style for the medium, and ethical decisions.
I think an area where I can improve is staying ahead of the changing trends and standards instead of always reacting to changes once I notice they’ve happened.
Treating my clients and associates with professional respect in my own style
I’ve come to realize that worrying about looking like I had it all together interfered with me actually getting things together. I don’t think I’ll ever truly have it all together and to think it’s even possible derails me from what I’m truly meant to do.
I’ve also learned that this business is mine. As is, this business is me, or at least a part of me. I’ve learned to let my personality be infused in the business but still be professional. Being professional means being respectful, getting the work done on time and doing well. I would say I’m adept at getting the work done and need to work on being on time to client meetings. I’m perpetually late to everything, even when I try to be early.
My clients have come to appreciate that I’m light-hearted and treat them like a friend I’m doing business with, not a sterile business relationship. I think it’s part of why they refer me (I have come to the point that I never have to advertise. They speak for me).
Knowing my niche
When you become a reporter, it’s common to do general assignment work at first and become more specialized with beat work later. I started as general assignment and then for eight years covered education. I realized it’s the beat I loved the most and found the most fulfilling. I still did some general assignment work but education was my niche. My talent.
When I started Jamie’s Notebook, I threw a bunch of skills together and tried to create a business out of it. Turns out, that’s not the best, most professional way of doing things. I do think, however, that it was necessary exercise for me to realize what I truly enjoy doing and what I truly do not enjoy doing, even if I’m good at it.
In the last five years, I’ve added categories of skills to my job such as website writing, and stopped doing other skills such as event planning. I also do very little social media writing but excel at corporate blog writing. I’ve had to realize what I do well and what I enjoy, and let myself give up on other categories. Once I realized that giving up categories wasn’t indicative of failure, I became much more willing to be selective about my work. And I’m a better professional because of it.
Being willing to learn new skills and niches
I think a mistake I unknowingly made in college and throughout the early parts of my career is that I was too focused. I was going to be a newspaper reporter so learning anything else was a waste of time, right? Well now, I rarely do any kind of actual reporting and what writing I do for publications are usually considered features not news.
I’ve had to learn how to create the kinds of writing projects I do now. I’ve had to let go of expectations and develop newer, healthier ones. I’ve also had to realize that whatever I’m doing now may not be what I’m doing five years from now. For a long-range planner/dreamer like me, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
Now, I pay attention to the types of writing people need and I continuously try to learn how to do my job better. I attend conferences, participate in webinars, and try to learn new skills. For example, I recently downloaded an e-course on screenplay writing after having to tell three different people that I couldn’t do it (now I just need to finish the course!).
An invitation to Professional Enough
I invite you to think about your own job. What are the professional standards? How do you know if you’re professional enough? Share your stories!