Amateur v. Professional – Which One are You?
Last week I came across an article from Farnam Street that asked the reader if they were an amateur or a professional. Well, we are all professionals, right? In the wise words of College GameDay legend Lee Corso – not so fast my friend.
In the article, differences between the two were pointed out. Some made you get a little defensive and hot under the collar, but nonetheless, it made the point.
Let’s take a look at seven of them…
Amateurs stop when they achieve something, like a goal. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just the beginning, and have a process.
Goals are good to have, don’t get me wrong, but honestly, it doesn’t stop there. Goals should be seen as benchmarks along the way. Your career is a process, and the awards you achieve are goals along the way. You don’t end your career because of an award or a making a sales goal. You keep going.
Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circles of competence.
This is a rookie mistake we’ve all made at some point. We think we can take on everything and be the one source for our customers or clients, when in reality, we are not. One piece of business advice I received early on was to focus on what I was good at and outsource the rest. Yes, I work in marketing. Yes, I could do a complete marketing package for a client, but I know where my strengths lay. One of my close friends is a CPA but she’s better on the audit side than the tax side – that’s her strength. Knowing your circles of competence, or strengths, will help set you apart and make you a better professional.
Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing them as a person. Professionals know they have weak spots and seek out thoughtful criticism.
People do not like to have the negative pointed out, no matter how well it’s done. However, I’ve been on both sides of this one – early on in my career I didn’t want anyone telling me how to do something unless I asked because I saw it as criticizing me as a person. Now that I am older and wiser, I know my weaknesses and I do seek out advice from those whose opinions I highly value. This is a career (and personal) maturity journey.
Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and on finding people who are strong where they are weak.
People want to be good at everything. That’s impossible. No one person can be good at everything apart from God. This is where the business advice I mentioned above comes into play – professionals will outsource what they are not as strong in to supplement. The sooner you realize this, the more time and energy you will save yourself.
Amateurs focus on tearing other people down. Professionals focus on making everyone better.
I came close to leaving this one out. I know “professionals” who make it a point to tear others down no matter how long they have been in business. And I know amateurs who claim to focus on making everyone better while their actions speak to the opposite. So be aware and be on guard at all times.
Amateurs blame others. Professionals accept responsibility.
This point comes from maturity – both in the person and your career. I understand fear – you may be scared to accept responsibility because of the consequences, but trust me, it’s always better to take that high road and be responsible. That’s what true leaders do.
Amateurs are scared — scared to be vulnerable and honest with themselves. Professionals feel like they are capable of handling almost anything.
The distinguishing factor here is confidence. It will come and go throughout your career. There are days I feel like I can conquer the world and there are days I feel like Chicken Little. As long as you are honest with yourself and know your strengths and take responsibility, it will be okay.
The article concludes by saying the main difference between the two boils down to two things: fear and reality. At any point in your career, no matter your age or how long you’ve been in your job, you will fall on either side of spectrum. If you read through to the article, you’ll see the other comparisons. There are some I fall on the amateur side, and some I fall on the professional side.
The goal should always be to be on the professional side more than amateur, and if you are on the amateur side, work on what you need to to move to the professional side. I know I am. Are you with me?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on amateurs v. professionals. Share with me below in the comments! This was an intriguing article and I’m curious your reaction.
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