Beyond Professionalism: Now, I’m Part of the Labor Force

And so life begins at work…

I grew up believing I knew everything.

Six days after my graduation, I was in the airport waiting for my boarding time, sighing in disbelief that in a few days I have a job interview. I was worried sick that I won’t be able to do well in my prospective job.

Although, this is the same country where I did my internship, a month didn’t guarantee me a complete understanding of a foreign land. I didn’t know their language, I wasn’t completely immersed in their culture — I argued I wasn’t ready at all. Despite my hesitations, I was determined to prove to my prospective employers that they won’t regret it if they hire me. I promised myself I will do whatever it takes to be a great employee. Armed with my three-paged CV and some college experience that, I claimed, honed my professionalism, I tried to sound as impressive as possible. Fake it, ‘til you make it, I told myself.

They did hire me. I landed a rather interesting job fit for middle-entry with a salary way more than a fresh graduate, without any employment experience, should receive. With that, the pressure to do well was even harder. I was afraid that if I do something wrong, they would stop believing in me and forget the reason why they hired me. I didn’t talk a lot because I was too conscious in speaking their language. I was afraid they would laugh at me and think I’m stupid once I mispronounce their words. I didn’t even go out during lunch breaks because I didn’t know where to eat and I refused to go with my colleagues because I was “shy” and going out with them meant I had to talk. I was overthinking things through to the extent that I unintentionally offended my colleagues in more ways than one. At work, after I submitted a series of brochure drafts, my superiors didn’t seem to appreciate them, so I was bummed to the core. I was disheartened because I felt I was incapable of pleasing them. After my first two weeks, without new friends and a “good job” at work, I wanted to go home.

The professional I once claimed that I was didn’t make sense anymore. There was something wrong with my perspective that’s why I was drowning in frustration. It was then I realized that I wasn’t trying enough. I was too self-serving that any comment on my work made me cringe and give up. I can’t get myself to go up to my superiors and ask questions because I wanted them to think I’m smart enough to get everything at first try. I wanted things to go my way, the same old immature brat still stuck in my comfort zone, making up excuses and blaming other people for my mistakes. As it turns out I became what I’ve always tried to avoid –unprofessional.

As I evaluated my performance for the past year, I was getting better at the material but not with my working relationships. I realized there’s more to professionalism than going to work early and acting civil in the workplace. It’s about beating the deadline but still preserving one’s quality of work. It’s about open communication, talking to your bosses about tasks, plans and actions for the company, informing your superiors about your whereabouts and what you’ve been working on, and even sharing stories about their weekends. It’s about helping colleagues with their computer-related issues and eating lunch together in the kitchen. It’s about accepting criticism and suggestions gracefully. It’s about personal relationship, just a little subdued because there are office politics involved. It’s about not being perfect at all but exerting the same effort to mature.

I may not have fully grasped the whole concept of work, labor, career and jobs. A full understanding requires decades of experiences in other firms, different people and different issues to deal with. But if there’s one thing I learned about professionalism –it’s about growing up.

This article was written in celebration of my first year at work last 1st May and I submitted it to be published somewhere but it didn’t come through. I’ll publish it here, then. Kinda like a prequel to my first ever entry in TCW.


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