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10 things that define a true professional

You may be a brilliant developer, a highly skilled net admin, or a crackerjack DBA -- but if you're unprofessional, your career is likely to fall short. Alan Norton offers some attributes to strive for.

The term professional is thrown around quite a bit these days, perhaps too much. I do it myself. But what exactly does it mean to be a professional? As you read through the items below, consider how you compare with each trait.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Put customer satisfaction first

Understanding and satisfying your customer's needs are the cornerstones of a successful business. Do what is necessary to meet those needs. After all, without the customer, there is no professional.

You may not view those you work with as your customers, but in many cases, they are. I remember when one of my managers perceived that I was overly stressed. He pulled me aside and sat me down in his office where he told me stories and jokes for the better part of half an hour. He recognized my needs and acted accordingly.

Professionals identify and satisfy their customer's needs.

2: Make expertise your specialty

The very word professional implies that you are an expert. Technical competence is essential in IT.

  • Become an expert in the skills and tools necessary to do your job.
  • Always perform to the best of your abilities.
  • Keep your knowledge up to date.

Professionals know their trade.

3: Do more than expected

Professionals aren't bound by a time clock. They are given wide latitude in their daily self-management. They are expected to manage their time and work habits. Don't abuse the privilege. If you take an hour for personal needs, give back two hours.

The reality is that professionals are expected to exceed the standard 40-hour workweek. There are times when you may be asked to work weekends. You may have to forego a vacation or work 12-hour days to complete an important project. All are part of the job description of most professional positions.

Professionals are expected to produce results. Strive to complete deliverables before their due dates and under budget.

Professionals meet or exceed expectations whenever possible.

4: Do what you say and say what you can do

This is one of my favorite sayings especially in view of the fact that talking the talk is so prevalent and walking the walk so rare in this age of sound bites. You should "engage brain" before speaking -- can you really do what you are about to say? If you can't, the wizard behind the curtain will eventually be revealed and hard-earned trust can be lost.

Professionals deliver on promises made.

5: Communicate effectively

I go out of my way to patronize a dentist who has excellent communication skills. He takes the time to explain the available options, make recommendations, state the total costs, and promise a date when the work can be completed. I then feel empowered to make the right decisions.

I recently ordered Internet and phone service from the cable company. I told the salesman that the existing cable had been ripped out during a landscaping project. Perhaps I wasn't clear or perhaps the salesman wasn't listening -- it doesn't really matter. The message didn't get through and the wrong person was sent to do the installation. As a result, Qwest, not the cable company, got my business. Not only did the commissioned salesman lose his sale, he and his company both looked unprofessional in my eyes.

Resist the urge to blame the customer when communication goes awry. Effective communication is ultimately your responsibility -- not your customer's.

Whether verbal or written, professionals communicate clearly, concisely, thoroughly, and accurately.

6: Follow exceptional guiding principles

Appreciate and support those you work with. Practice good manners and proper etiquette. Have high ethical and moral standards. Be honest and fair in all of your dealings with others. Obey the law. These may sound like the attributes of a Boy Scout, but they are basic values that all professionals should follow. Many companies have a document that outlines their operating principles. Have you read yours?

Professionals adhere to high values and principles.

7: Praise your peers not yourself

Respect and acknowledge the talents of your peers. There is nothing more unprofessional and self-serving than telling others how wonderful you are.

Professionals are humble and generous in their praise of others.

8: Share your knowledge

When I was hired at Hughes Aircraft, a second person with similar skills was hired with me. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that one of us wasn't going to survive. The competitive nature of the situation was palpable. I am no stranger to the belief that it is not in your best interest to share your knowledge with your associates, AKA the competition.

It is easy to find yourself in that comfortable place with "unique" knowledge. If you are a hoarder of information and are of the opinion that all of the nuts you have squirreled away grant you immutable job security, think again. The harsh reality is that nobody is irreplaceable.

Information isn't a limited resource. Contrary to what some might think, your mind won't be emptied by giving away kernels of wisdom or experience. Think of knowledge as an ocean of facts and not a stream of data. It is possible to share what you know and still keep one step ahead of the competition -- simply apply yourself and learn something new daily.

Professionals help their peers and are respected for doing so.

9: Say thank you

I always tried to find a way to thank others for their help. When their help was above and beyond the call of duty, I would buy them a Coke - a testament to the marketing power of Madison Avenue and Mean Joe Greene.

The items I value the most in my personnel file from Hughes Aircraft are two AVOs (Avoid Verbal Orders memos) to my manager from frontline employees. The AVOs thanked me for the support I provided that helped them do their job better.

Silly me -- what was I thinking? I was sharing a Coke when I should have been sharing my thanks in a printed internal document to the employee's manager.

Professionals thank others in a meaningful way that most benefits the recipient.

10: Keep a smile on your face and the right attitude in your heart

This has been the hardest item for me to do consistently over my working years. I believed I was lying to myself and the world by smiling when I was miserable or unhappy with an ongoing issue at work.

I now realize it's not dishonest to be pleasant when you are having one of those lousy days. It is in fact thoughtful to care about how your attitude affects those you interact with. Share your unhappiness with your manager only. "Share the misery" is not the mark of a professional.

Professionals are pleasant even during trying times.

The final word

Working with professionals is a pleasure, and I have been fortunate to work with some truly exemplary ones. There have been a few who liked to be treated as professionals without having to work and act like one.

You don't have to look any further than the medical profession to see examples of true professionals. Think back upon those doctors you've liked the most and model your professionalism after theirs.

So, how do you measure up? Don't feel bad if you need some work in one or more areas. Demeanor that is less than professional can lead to an image problem for you and your company. Negative images are hard to shake. Recognize any shortcomings you might have and begin working on your professional image today.

About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

59 comments
Gorilla72
Gorilla72

Most of these points would fall under 'Common Sense' to me.  But since most of the public does not have that anymore, I guess it would have to be spelled out for them.. For the record we were taught this in school and the funny part was when I got into the "REAL" world, the people who used the term, "That's not Professional" or "Be Professional", were the ones that were the most UN-Professional.  


I think the security guard said it best to me at one of my jobs when I was venting about all the promotions the woman at the company had gotten.  He said to me... "All I can say to you is, don't ever put  your hands down on the Large Conference room table!".



So much for being "PROFESSIONAL" hu?

Gopal Gureja
Gopal Gureja

A highly interesting and fairly inspiring post indeed! Any one, exercising these 10 attributes could genuinely pride herself/himself as a true professional. HR managers of most companies would be too happy to hire people who show a great promise for self-discipline in thought and in action. But can they act as true professionals all the time while working within a company’s policy framework as reflected in the top management’s day-to-day actions—or lack of action—rather than in the formal mission or value statements?


My empirical research—spanning 200 customer service professionals, 12 companies and a period of over three years—has revealed that the strongly emerging age of customer capitalism has given rise to a serious internal conflict of real and postured priorities, that brings the company’s declared mission and core values under question. This phenomenon also raises doubts about the company’s real KPAs and therefore, it induces distorted perception of the employees’ self-interest. In my view this cultural churn is best described as organizational schizophrenia, which undoubtedly impacts the quality of service adversely. (The book shown in my profile picture: Organizational Schizophrenia: Impact on Customer Service Quality details how the malaise spreads all the way down). https:customercarebooks.com 

I have known of the professionals who, even at the risk of getting on the wrong side, made out a spirited case and have succeeded in getting their top management to consciously exercise a rigour of discipline to block schizophrenia from creeping in to the company. 

Should taking a reasoned stand against any wrong-doing within the company be also one of the traits of the true professionals? Philip Roth strongly endorses this trait when he says: “Unless one is inordinately fond of subordination, one is always at war”.

beticka65
beticka65

This article is right on the money! After being in management for many years, I've noticed that I am quick to notice an unprofessional employee. Each point is true and very important in today's business. It doesn't matter if you are the manager of a retail store or the manager of a million dollar company, professionalism is the back bone. Treating your employees and coworkers with respect should always be your number one priority.

nikipc
nikipc

I enjoyed this article. I often encounter "un"professionalism in the workplace and while i'm out in public shopping or purchasing services somewhere. I always think, if I acted like that at my job i'd be fired." I do try to be professional at work and when I deal with the public outside of work. I believe that going above and beyond to satisfy others will change their attitude and make their day as well as make them a loyal customer. If I can't help someone, I find out who can and I follow up. Basically, I act and treat others as I want to be treated in their workplace by them. I think more people should be reading this article and taking notes on how to be professional.

Not~SpamR
Not~SpamR

I always figured that if I wanted something, or I was asked something, that didn't quite fit in with normal arrangements an easy way to see if it was reasonable was to see if the flipside would work just as well. So if I needed to work late to fix something specific I'd do it gladly, as long as my manager was the type who would let me knock off early if I had a specific requirement (the flipside to that was that I'd only knock off early if I were willing to work late when required). If I was suddenly told that I was expected to work late every night for a month to get a project back on track (like the time I was given a document in October for a "critical" project but the document was dated April), I refused on the basis my manager would never have let me leave early every day for a month. That particular case also highlighted mismanagement - as I pointed out someone had sat on it for six months so if it had become urgent the failings had to be acknowledged. There's a difference between being a jobsworth and being a professional. There's also a difference between being a professional and being a doormat. In my mind a professional will get things done but will also have enough self-respect that an unscrupulous manager won't get to take advantage of their professional goodwill.

lastminute.com
lastminute.com

I would agree somewhat with rmazzeo in that I cannot wholly agree with point #3. I think as a professional you owe it to yourself to work for a professional employer - one who will not use and abuse their relationship and rank over you and one that respects you, such that you willingly give 2 hours back for every 1 used for personal reasons simply because you want to. Its not a hardship to do this, since as a professional within that company you feel valued and you thus you act with intrgrity. Anything else is seen for what it is - being taken a loan of! It is hard to be the only professional in an organsiation if your senior management are not, thereore I would advise you seek out professional companies to work for. Those that respect the all important work/life balance aspect and realise they get much more back from their employees on so many levels for recognising and enforcing this basic need. All the other points I agree with! Thanks for such a thought provoking article.

gileado
gileado

many thanks for your genuine words sir...

rmazzeo
rmazzeo

...Hey, that rhymes! You're kidding, right? "Do more than expected" is a great idea, especially if the client/customer notices & is genuinely happy. But to do it for your company, in many circumstances, simply means that you're a chump - let me explain: Corporations are cutting back - how admirable! But how are they doing it? They are cutting their workforce, expecting those who are still around to do more - in many cases, much more - for the same pay or slightly more, say 2% more. But now you have to work 20% more hours, put more miles on your car (getting paid the same mileage rate), pay the same amount on your health insurance (if you have it), or get your perks cut (no pension, possibilty of future layoff, possibly pay MORE for your benefits, etc.). In the meantime, the CEO/other execs make more & more in bonuses & perks on YOUR increased labor. First example (of 2) - in the company I worked for, I didn'g get a raise (of ANY kind, even Cost of Living) for 3 years. Yet I was told that I was doing a GREAT job & getting better over those 3 years. The excuse for no raise? "The business isn't making as much money as anticipated...". Then, as I was in the field, I was told that I wouldn't get paid for the trip back to the office from the client's location. Now I could be in New York (from PA), so my sometimes 2-3 hour commute would be on MY time. Needless to say, I worked it so that I would be back by 5:00 p.m. no matter what, & when they asked me to come back full-time (I was PT for a year due to family matters), I was told that I would make the same money. I politely refused, got laid off, took the unemployment & RAN. Second example - A neighbor & a good friend of mine was told he would be laid off at the end of last year, unless, of course, he was interested in taking an open "lateral" position, for less pay & more travel. Well, he has a family to support, so, of course, he took the "lateral" move. He is so sorry he did it, in the sense that he is NEVER home with his family, both he & his wife are just not happy with the situation - he's exhausted all the time, she's taking care of the kids with no down time, & he's making less money in a much more stressful situation. He is seriously looking for something else, but it's tough in this market... Bottom line - don't give them 2 hours back for the 1 hour lunch. Grab what you can & run with it. I'm running my own small business now &, while it's not making me rich, it is rewarding, I make some money, there's no stress & me & my family are much happier - with less. You can't be loyal to those who won't be loyal to you. If you insist on being loyal to a corporation, get something in writing or go ahead & play the fool - it's your choice!

cb 123
cb 123

Thank you for the emphasis on honesty, integrity and for remdinding us of the definition of professionalism. With the economy threatened by the greedy actions of those striving to get into the top 1% (inadvertently working to remove the middle class and hoard profit), we need reminders that honest practices make the economy go round. Kudos!

AFloresH
AFloresH

Great article, specially ife read before you start a workday, btw, good call mentioning Steel Curtain 'Mean' Joe Greene SB add!

psgrafx
psgrafx

I really love this list. I believe that I have done my best to follow those rules despite not really knowing what I was following. Behaving this way really helped my career and my managers always loved me and considered me one of their "top" employees.

ppg
ppg

I (as many other commenters have) disagree with point #3. In it you say it is unprofessional to stick to a rigid 9-5 day. I quite agree. If it is needed for your company to do business or to protect their assets you do work through the night or over the weekend. Similarly if by done a few extra hours you allow you colleagues to keep working you do it. Also if it is more efficient to finish a job rather than stopping and starting again on Monday you do it. However to take the next step which you do and say you should routinely work extra hours is not professional. Indeed it conflicts with points 1 and 7 ? you are not respecting others if you are trying to get ahead of them by working extra hours. Instead you are forcing them into a race for the bottom where everyone must work more and more hours just to stay where they are.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

"You may have to forego a vacation or work 12-hour days to complete an important project. All are part of the job description" I don't think so!!! So you are effectively saying I can't be a professional unless I let the company I work for walk all over my and my 'own time'.

Ramon Somoza
Ramon Somoza

I'm missing something crucial, which I've tried to apply throughout my whola career: Do NOT claim a success for yourself, but give credit where credit is due. A true professional credits merits to whoever made the achievement. This is specially true if the guys who achieved a success work for you. It is inspiring -and greatly reinforces your team- when people know that you are not going to claim their rightly-earned medals. And only fools fear that their subordinates will shine more than they do: It's just the other way round, their shining contributes to your own gloss.

santeewelding
santeewelding

With the Latin roots of, [i]profess[/i], and worked my way out from there. You be coming from the other direction, Alan, which is the land of the scattered.

Rayx2
Rayx2

To me the communication part is the most important of all. That means also listening, its easy to say what you want or think. Its really hard to repeat exactly what people say. Too often tone, body language, our owns fellings get in the way of the real message. I guess that the best listeners are really the best communicators because they interact in conversation rather than react.

dawgit
dawgit

Not a lot of them I'm seen or heard about lately. Other wise, a good article.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

says WE are all accountable for the reason why YOU have to put an extra 20 hours in unpaid. You sort of get the impression that "professional" is something only people lower down in the food chain have to be...

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Thank you. It's good to know that these guidelines have been be practical and positive for you and your career.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Consider the Special Forces. Would you expect the same training as the regular Army? How do you get to be the best, the elite, the most highly skilled without working harder than the average soldier? You don't. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080729112013AA3LDOc I am really somewhat surprised with this push-back about working extra hours. I have punched time-clocks and I was happy to work harder so I could get off the clock. What did I dislike about being a 40 hour a week union controlled worker? No matter how well I did my job I was paid the same as everyone else. I was the last person in so I got the fewest hours and anyone senior to me (which was everyone) could take my scheduled hours simply by writing their initials next to my shift on the work schedule. If you don't want to be the finest, the elite, one of the professionals you can find a company that only expects their professionals to work 40 hours a week (good luck with that) or join the ranks of the hourly workers. You just can't have your cake and eat it too.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

If other "professionals" in your organization are expected to work extra hours, and most professionals typically are, then, yes, it is part of the job description. If you decide to not put in the extra effort then at the very least your job performance rating could suffer. You can work 40 hour work-weeks and still be professional but if there is any one criterion that differentiates professionals from non-professionals it is having to punch a time clock and/or being paid for overtime. Job applicants should fully understand what is expected of them before accepting a professional position. If that means working long hours, as it usually does, then I don't see how that is letting the company walk all over them and their own time. Please see my first post for a further explanation: http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-13583-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=333958&messageID=3332366

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Hello Ramon. Bravo! That is one of two items I considered adding after submitting the article to Jody. I decided to discuss it in the forum, so thank you for bringing it up. Well said! Edit: Subject

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Shotguns can be effective weapons too. ;-) I find your comment interesting. If you ever write it up, I would like to read what you have to say.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Good point. Communication is a two way street. Like you say, our own feelings or experiences color what we are hearing. Too often we hear what we want to hear instead of what the communicator is saying.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

For one fleeting moment I considered lawyers, but sanity reigned. :-) I think the medical profession is better suited than most for searching out role models. But you are right. There are doctors who are technically proficient but lacking in other ways. Bedside manner is the key in my book. When you find a doctor with the right bedside manner, hang on to him or her!

sfcat
sfcat

I was uncomfortable reading your rule three, it sounded too unrealistic and nothing in the article mentioned setting reasonable boundaries. That is something a professional does. Because a professional knows when to say no, when to say someone else can do that better/faster than I can. And professionals aren't union flunkies. Nor are they recruiters or many of the other things you talk about. This is IT! And many of us senior, experienced, versatile PROFESSIONALS are hourly workers, consulting or contracting, expected to follow schedules, and to earn our company money for that work, while keep the clients needs in mind, and not go over the budget for hours either. That often means telling the boss, you don't want me to do it when that junior developer could do it without impacting your budget. You want to be proud of being a salaried employee and having someone pat you on the head for being there night and day, your issue. To say that being paid by the hour means you aren't a professional, you are gravely wrong.

ppg
ppg

I do not see the relevance of your reference to Special Forces. As the link you give points out - if you join the Special Forces that becomes your life. However many people want a responsible position and a family life. It is my opinion that it is a better use of resources if companies are set up to support this balance. The world you envision does not provide a balance - you have a choice between hourly work and a professional position with potentially unlimited hours! As an example, I knew a doctor who was routinely working 70-80 hour weeks because he was the only doctor with his speciality for several hundred miles around and his hospital would not hire a second doctor in his speciality. Eventually (even though he was being paid for all his time) it became too much and he moved to another city where there are other doctors in his speciality. He is still a productive profesional and much happier now. The hospital isn't since they were not able to replace him and must transport all the patients he would have treated the several hundred miles to a bigger city, On a separate note you portray unions as the enemy of employees with initiative. That does not have to be the case - there are professional unions and they do balance differences in skill level with a desire to treat all employees fairly.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

is not leaving the job broke because it's home time. Professional is staying back to complete a job because you put your finger in the wrong hole, or underestimated a task. So yes you aren't clock watching, yes you may end up putting some extra hours in. There's nothing in that description means I have to put a sixty hour weeek in because some cheapskake won't resource the job, or some feebleminded boss made a promise his people couldn't keep. We ain't got no cake, the boss f'ing ate ours as well.

khurtwilliams
khurtwilliams

I think you missed the point of his statement. I was very honored when my Director asked me to be the interim "Associate Director" when someone on staff transferred to a new role in another department. I cancelled my summer vacation, worked long hours and weekends for several months while a replacement was found. I got great kudos from the Director and other management staff. Now it's the end of the year and I am struggling to even take just a few days of my 21 days of unused vacation time. I am constantly being pressured to reschedule it. None of it can be rolled over. Using your criteria wouldn't it be unprofessional of management ( also shows a lack of integrity) to offer and agree to something (vacation time) they can't deliver? How long will a professional ? just a human being ? last if he/she is never given the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of labour and "sacrifice"?

keropifrogs
keropifrogs

I am supposed to work 9AM to 6PM, with an hour off for lunch. The hour off almost never happens, unless I am at a client site. I usually eat while I work. Employers are squeezing their IT people, and the burnout rate is quite high in the SMB market for managed service providers. The last company that I worked for, in Moorestown, NJ. Told me during my hiring negotiations that their average employee only lasts one to one and half years. They told me upfront that they planned to burn me out. I still worked for them, because I needed the money. Yes, they did finally burn me out after not supporting me in the field the way they had promised me they would. As a worker, you are an expendable commodity to employers. Don't forget that. Never think you are irreplaceable, the company knows that you are always replaceable.

outpastpluto
outpastpluto

How can you be a professional if you let people walk all over you? How can you stand up for professional ethics or best practices if you easily compromise other things? Letting people walk all over you is no sign of professionalism. It's a sign of being a frightened hourly employee with less legal protections. Here, "professional" is just used as an excuse to abuse a certain class of corporate employee.

speculatrix
speculatrix

in the UK the typical employment contract is 7.5 hours a day, i.e. 37.5 hours a week. analysis shows that people aren't capable of working *effectively* for more hours over a long period, all that happens is they become less effective and the same work gets spread out. when you talk about 40 hour weeks being the minimum a professional would work, I am wondering whether breaks, chats over water coolers etc are included? FWIW, *my* working day is usually 9.30am to 6.30pm (time spent in the office), with time for lunch, and a break in the afternoon to talk a walk, get some fresh air and then I am able to finish off what I have been doing with a clear head to ensure that I haven't made any mistakes. The actual time I spend working is thus probably between 7.5 and 8 hours.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

but I do not see working such extra hours as a sign of a professional. Why should I work for free, just to seem professional?? The need for such long hours over a continued time would either point to personal time management issues or higher up miss management off overall staff time / lack of resources. Nothing to do with being a professional.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

replaceable too. Every role is an opportunity to be better at the job and increases your opportunities is the way I look at it.

santeewelding
santeewelding

That Colin has seen the same as I have seen. Seems, also, he is careful about that word, "never", which you seem not in your short time.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Hiring new staff costs money and getting them up to speed costs even more. With a large investment in Staff why would any company be happy with them moving on long before that company gets any return on it's investment? The greatest asset any company has is it's staff. Without those staff no work gets done no Billable Hours get billed out and the company goes broke. Hardly worth the effort in my opinion unless the company is a $2.00 Shelf Company who sole aim in life is ripping off everyone. Places like that are not worth working for in the first place as they just give you a [b]Bad Name.[/b] Col

santeewelding
santeewelding

You got burned out because there was nobody there worth the mettle to begin with. I am a worker. I am also a CEO. None of what you have to say comports with my experience, going on, now, 50 years. Retrench.

speculatrix
speculatrix

my brother was, long ago, in the military flying 'copters they had very strict rules about the amount of time you could fly in a combat zone vs the amount of time rest you needed to take. the point was that the risk of someone tired making a bad mistake and costing the lives of other people, as well as losing expensive equipment, had been measured and limits set. of course, people working in IT are unlikely to make mistakes that cost lives, but they can be very costly to businesses. at one bank datacentre I used to visit, an electrician got electrocuted and the emergency power was hit, and the bank took many hours to bring everything back online, costing them (estimated) 10's of millions of $$$. At that data centre we had a server whose motherboard fried, emitted lots of smoke, but we managed to prevent the fire alarm going off and causing the power to shut down automatically - phew!

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

I doubt that I am the norm, but I personally do not count breaks, watercooler chat, etc. The only time I "chat" is when I am assisting a co-worker on something, or in a meeting with vendors or business unit folks. My typical day starts at 8 and ends at aboout 5. I am allotted an hour for lunch, but seem only to take this when I have a vendor pitching something.

khurtwilliams
khurtwilliams

You keep mentiong 40 hours as though it's a law. For heavens sake man, we are saying we already work beyond the 40 hours. I am at work before 8 AM every day and don't leave until after 5PM. And I can often be found checking email on the weekend. But I don't think that's it's unprofessional to have respect for oneself and boundaries and say when enough is enough. I don't give a crap if someone else gets hired or promoted because of it. I'm more happy being with my family. No one ever lay on their death bed and whispered "My only regret is that I didn't work longer and harder."

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

that is something that would have been defined before I took the job in a professional manner as part of a contract. Any professional should make sure that they know exactly what they are getting in to. Any thing else would just show a lack of professionalism which is where the employer starts to walk all over you - you get rumbled basically. Ye,s there is the odd time it is required but as said before, not week after week.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I respect your choice of priorities, even admire you for putting family ahead of 'things'. Leaving the job behind at the end of the day is healthy. Unfortunately, I was responsible for ensuring the completion of the overnight reporting in my last position. I dreaded the 11:00 to 12:00 PM hour every day waiting for the page telling me something had gone wrong. I didn't like it but accepted it as part of the job - a professional job. But that is a very different issue than overloading a professional with work. Burning out your employees and unrealistic expectations of work accomplished does not serve anyone well. At my last position I had a fortunate opportunity to find myself in the role of the hiring manager/recruiter. I looked through a number of resumes that were forwarded to me but I wanted to hire from within. Our development group supported the help desk with services so recruiting from the help desk seemed natural. One likely candidate lost interest after I told him that he would be expected to occasionally work long hours. Frankly, I was relieved because it was becoming obvious to me that he wasn't willing to take on the many challenges that lay ahead of him in the new position. He was in that 40 hour work-week comfortable place he knew so well. That's fine - it was his choice to make. I am just glad we avoided a possible human resources disaster. You sound like someone who takes on new challenges with the right attitude. That can take you far. I appreciate very much hearing your perspective. I do wish you well. Thank you for such a thoughtful post.

PCF
PCF

AMEN! Esp., the part about something being mismanaged causing the problem. That is not acceptable. I can't agree with Alan that I have to work like a dog, overwork, just to be "professional". Now, I have done this over the years, and am trying to be smarter and stop that. It is not good for my health, or for me. Things need to be managed well, so that no one has to overwork, and all experience few extra hours days. Naturally they can happen sometimes in some fields, but for society to accept that as the norm is sad. Look at it this way, we have to take care of ourselves in order to keep working, right? So, we shouldn't be worked to death.

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

I will say, from my own perspective at least, that this was not an expectation that was held out to me when I was offered my current position (or I was too naive at the time to read between the lines). I'd been working for the manager that offered me this position for about 3 years as a contractor, and she's known for being very straight forward. I'd been helping in this area, so knew the requirements of the position pretty well. When the position was offered, the exectation she set was "As long as requirements are met, I don't care what it takes you. If you can get it all done in 30 hours and want to take off, more power to you. But if you need 60 to get it done, I expect you to be here for 60". The entire time I worked for this manager, while she was not my favorite person, she held true to this. It was not until later, when a new manager came into her position, that things changed. The expectation is the same, however the intent is to trim bodies and thus load each person's plate with so much they can't possibly get it done in 40 hours. THAT is what I dislike. I understand economic hardships, but I've worked for far too many companies that don't mind working an employee to the point of burnout and then finding someone new. I agree with you wholeheartedly that it is up to each of us to determine our priorities. I am not what I would consider materialistic; I would like to earn enough to pay my bills, have a little fun with my wife and son once in a while, and maybe sock a little away for unforeseen occurances. The need to be rich is just not in me, especially at the expense of my family. It is obviously different for everyone, as I might see things differently if I was younger and still single. But I guess the formula has always seemed to work for me anyway: be there every day, do what you do to the best of your ability, help your co-workers where you can, and when the day is done leave it all behind and concentrate on your family.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I have lots of stories. :-) One afternoon just after 5:00 I caught the boss poking his nose over the cubicle wall. I thought this was rather strange since the boss never bothered to hang around after 5:00. I instantly made the connection. Performance appraisal time was coming up and he was personally checking to see who was working late - and perhaps more importantly, who wasn't. Your time is a limited resource. Like any limited resource, priorities have to be established. If time for your family takes priority over work, then good for you. Earning money for the family is important too. If you are expected to work extra hours and you consistently work 40 hour work weeks, don't be surprised if others get the pay increases and you don't. It's a fine balancing act. Only you can determine where your priorities lie. I mention in the article that professionals are expected to work extra hours. I admit I am old school on this point. Perhaps the culture is changing, but I doubt it. I submitted one time card during my career that was less than 40 hours in part just to see what would happen if I did. My professional image wasn't damaged, the Spanish Inquisition didn't show up in my cubicle and the world didn't stop turning. But let me get to the point of the article. Can a "professional" work only 40 hours and still be considered a professional? Well, certainly, but there may be consequences for doing so, especially if you fail to meet expectations. I must ask this question though. If you knew going in that you would be expected to work extra hours why is it now such a point of contention?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

but then that's not professional now is it ;-)

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

I have to agree there. I believe the trend of working IT professionals longer hours, so you can make do with fewer bodies and a heavier workload, is disturbing. I do my best on a daily basis to follow most everything in the original post, but I draw the line at sacrificing time with my family for career. Somewhere along the line I believe we IS folk have been convinced we should live to work, rather than work to live. I have often been asked "If your server is going down at 4:59, are you going to just walk out the door?", and I would say of course not. In the rare case of extreme need, I have stayed to assist in resolving an issue. What I constantly resist though, is the belief that every little thing is an emergency, such as the business unit manager that doesn't plan properly and then wants you to stay all weekend resolving an issue while they're at home with family. I think it important to redefine what "priorities" are, before we think about setting them.