Amateur or Professional?

This blog has just turned amateur.   Most of the pieces you can view at this website were weekly pieces commissioned by Media Week with a strict brief and deadline, and at least 3 highly trained and experienced editors and sub-editors  monitoring them before publication.  From now on it’s just me and  you – your comments and feedback.  Media Week were scrupulous in editing out any personal stuff and anything too MediaCom-centric.  Now its just up to us.

Will this make me more self-indulgent now that there is not a team of consummate professionals reading every word before publishing?  I seriously hope not.

Over time being an amateur has come to encompass the idea that you might be a bit rubbish because you aren’t subject to a proper chain of command or process.  Originally amateurs were people who didn’t need to get paid for the job, but did it because they loved it and were therefore more passionate than professionals.  Now I’m becoming an amateur – in its original meaning – doing it for the love!

So – which is better – professional or amateur?

In the winter edition of Intelligent Life Magazine (<>) Ed Smith – professional cricketer, author and journalist suggests professionalism has gone too far.  He says it doesn’t necessarily help anyone to do their job better.  Citing Mark Ramprakash the “great what-if” of cricket he writes “The clouds of professionalism descended, and viewing what he did as a job made Ramprakash less good at doing it”.

In my view confusing professionalism with a loss of enthusiasm is dangerous thinking.  Instead it is corporate compliance and over-reliance on systems that hamper enthusiasm and instinctive skill, not regarding work as a job.  Professionalism does not mean being locked in a stuffy room deciding on the perfect wording for a team “Core Covenant”, instead of getting better at playing as a team.  That’s bad management not professionalism.

Professionalism also does not mean you shouldn’t love what you get paid to do.  It means that you’re meant to love what you do whatever the circumstance, and whatever mood you happen to be in, whether the cat has been sick over your shoes or London Transport has been a nightmare instead of a convenient route to work.  Professionalism means you find a way to do it better – whatever it is and however difficult the circumstances.  It is not anti-spontaneity.  In fact being spontaneous (even on a bad day) and acting on your instinct as well as by a rule book is part of the techniques of a professional.

Surely we are not entering an era when professionalism will become despised versus amateur enthusiasm?  Smith begins his article quoting an interview by John Humphrys on the Today programme when a young nurse was asked what she considered the two most important qualities in her job.  She replied “Being caring and compassionate”, “Not being professional?” Humphrys challenged.  “No, not being professional” she confirmed.

I’d like to believe that professionalism encompasses being caring and compassionate.  But also in getting every detail right, and not leaving anything to hopeful enthusiasm.  I know given the choice between ruthless professionalism and incompetent loving care which I’d go for in an Emergency Room.

Professional standards will be maintained in this blog.  But every job that must be done should have an element of fun – then after all, snap, the job’s a game.

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