Do your staff see themselves as ‘professionals’?

by | May 3, 2022 | Corporate culture, Personal Brand, Professional Confidence

No matter what the industry, people who view themselves as ‘professionals’ step up with motivation and confidence to do a great job.

A Brisbane client recently expressed to me that it was hard for his staff to see themselves as ‘professional’ – despite being qualified medical professionals doing important work. One reason he cited was that due to Covid lockdowns and isolation, as well as the floods in Queensland, staff had not had the opportunity to get out and network with peers and learn more from their industry through face-to-face interactions and observation.

There are factors particular to the time we are in, as well as ongoing factors, that may mean your staff don’t see themselves as ‘professional’. Why does this matter? Working with thousands of people in a range of industries has taught me that those who see themselves as professionals – no matter the sector or the role – tend to behave and perform as such. They also seem to exude more passion, purpose and confidence in the work they do!

Here are some of the reasons your staff may not see themselves as ‘professional’:

  • Lack of opportunities to mix with peers, see role models and hear from industry leaders at professional association events and other meet-ups.
  • The focus on crisis-management over the last two years has meant that professional and personal development has taken a back seat – and the cracks are starting to show through loss of staff engagement and performance.
  • Low pay for an industry of professionals can mean they are not seen or do not feel ‘professional’. This can be reinforced by the industry or organisational ‘culture’ where it is ‘acceptable’ for stakeholders or leadership to treat staff as less than competent, valuable professionals.
  • Bad press or negative media representation in general for some industries doesn’t help staff to see themselves in a good light. They may question whether or not their work is ethical or creates meaningful impact.
  • Our environment and the way we dress for work can affect our perception of what a professional is. For example, if your office is messy or needs an update, or if there are no expectations around standards of dress and grooming… like it or not, these factors do impact on our psyche! This problem can of course be compounded from lack of a ‘professional’ space when we are all working from home.
  • Similarly, standards around language (what we talk about and how we speak in work settings, including online!) has a huge impact on how people see themselves, not just how they are seen.

What can be done to help your team members see themselves as professionals?

  • Discuss with your teams, ‘What is a professional?’ Break down misconceptions of where they are, what they look like, and how much they get paid.
  • Bring to their awareness that being a professional is much more about how you see yourself, not just how others see you (and how you see yourself eventually affects how others see you anyway!). Explore self-concept and self-worth, before moving to perception by others. Learn about what we can control in our internal and external environments to be seen and respected as professionals. (This is absolutely how I approach personal branding with teams!)
  • Discuss standards and values around ‘how we are’ as professionals. What should we be aiming for with our online/offline communication, with our personal presentation, with the way we approach our work and conduct business?
  • Refocus on strong professional development opportunities, mentoring and peer networks, to strengthen your team of professionals for the next phase in business.

“Working with thousands of people in a range of industries has taught me that those who see themselves as professionals – no matter the sector or the role – tend to behave and perform as such.”

Hopefully the points above outlining the problem of staff not seeing themselves as professionals, and what can be done about it, demonstrate that a pro-active approach is possible to elevate how your people see themselves… and ultimately, how others see them too.