September 23, 2017

Professionalism

By Anu Dev

‘Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.”
– “Dr J” – (Julius Erving – basketball legend)

Now that I’m approaching the end of the road in Med School, and am soon to enter the “real world”, I’ve decided to revisit a piece on being a “professional,” which I wrote some time ago, when I was still a callow youth! We’ve all had those experiences: going to the doctor’s office, shopping in some store, or visiting a travel agency, where we probably went through the worst ordeal of our lives because of the way we were treated.
It’s really the pits to go somewhere on a chore and you end up being treated like some lesser being. Call me melodramatic, but after some jarring encounters with sales clerks, I started paraphrasing Shylock’s speech from Merchant of Venice to myself: “Hath not an Anu eyes? Hath not Anu fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases?” As I rise up in righteous indignation, vowing never to return to that store (at least not until next week!).
It can really leave a bad taste in your mouth, and makes you wonder if that offensive person had an overabundance of bile – or, more likely, absolutely no training. But the thing I don’t understand is it’s not like they’re doing you a favour; you’re paying them for the service. If it’s a doctor, it’s not like he/she is diagnosing you for free. You’ve already had to wait an hour in the waiting room, inhaling everybody else’s germs, and now the doctor is treating you like you’re an errant 3-year-old? What? That’s not being a professional, and I hope I don’t succumb to that hauteur!
And professionalism goes beyond treating your patrons like they’re actual human beings. It includes things like punctuality, accountability, and being able to carry out your tasks efficiently. We really need to break the mould of things always starting ½ hour late in Guyana (and the rest of the Third World). Sure, it’s a running joke that always manages to get a few laughs, but, in reality, it’s a sad reflection of how we’ve accepted our tardiness, and aren’t prepared to do anything to change.
In whatever profession we choose, we must always also have accountability. And not just being able to account for finances – we should be able to account for our actions. We’re not living in our own personal vacuums. Our actions and decisions affect the people around us, sometimes more than we could ever imagine. Nothing has disproved Aristotle’s dictum that we’re social beings. (Incorrectly interpreted nowadays as “political beings”)
But it can be difficult; sometimes you’re just having an “off day”. Some days you can’t be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. But in some professions, that’s exactly what’s expected of you as a professional.
To be a true professional, you have to be professional in the way you dress, the way you carry yourself, the way you relate to the people around you. It could’ve been that little girl in the Bank who came in with her mom might’ve gotten inspired by the way you carried yourself, and now she wants to work in a Bank when she grows up, to be just like you.
As professionals, you’re representing your profession. You’re the ones who either inspire us to want to do what you do, or who make us swear never to touch, for instance, “the law” with a ten-foot pole.
And in some professions, you only ever meet some of your patrons for once in your life. Do you really want to be remembered as the impolite, scruffy sales clerk? Or, like Dr J, who can still soar and dunk the ball in his sixties?