How to be more professional in one of the most exciting professions?

I have always believed that to become smarter in life, hang out with people smarter than you. It takes a lot of perseverance to seek out smart people.  Because smart people are always looking for people smarter than them. When I went about building a tiny team earlier this year I reached out to two of the smartest people I knew who would be open to working with me. While they were smart they had not worked in the Public Relations business ever before. But the one quality that stood out was that they could be trusted. Every other attribute can be taught. Trustworthiness has to come from within. Why am I writing about Trustworthiness when the column is about being Professional?

I’m doing so because we take for granted that every educated person will be professional without setting a code. There is no fixed formula for professionalism but certain aspects are hygiene and they get engrained early on in our career. Trustworthiness is about Honesty and Integrity which one has to display and the other has to see.

Professionalism, however, is about Applying Intelligence and Building through Hard work. There is no substitute for these two. Take all the inspiring stories of the corporate world. These two ingredients stand out.

Applying intelligence is about: 

  • Paying attention to detail: This ranges from getting spellings right, to not giving more information than what is sought to ensuring that every aspect of a plan is thought out
  • Ensuring punctuality and promptness: While we all consider this hygiene, careers are made and broken on this one principle
  • Staying focussed: This is something we very often do not get. The simple way to do this is to know to draw the line between professional and personal and stick to it. No personal calls between 930 am and 530 pm is one way to accomplish it
  • Openness to feedback: Realising that getting feedback on your work, even critical feedback is part of the job; it’s not personal

Building through Hard work is about:

  • Constantly learning: This can only be done through a lot of reading and additionally, meeting new people for the purpose of learning through listening and writing as well.
  • Putting in the extra hours: Those who rise above their peers are those who burnt the midnight oil. If we assume that we are in a 9 to 5 set-up in the 21st century we are mistaken.
  • Making those sacrifices: Hard work pays. But in order to work hard one needs to cut down on the fun and games. It involves hard choices
  • Seeking new avenues: Constantly asking the right questions to get new projects and assignments is the only way to grow and shine.

These are simple mantras that one needs to imbibe in order to survive the roller coaster world of working in a corporate organisation. The quicker one embraces these tactics the longer one will last. And Public Relations more than any other profession needs people with a great combination of Hard Work and Intelligence.

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Amith Prabhu
Amith Prabhu is the Founder of the PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS, India’s annual summit of reputation management professionals.

He is also the Founding Dean of the School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe).

He can be reached at @amithpr on twitter.

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