My Definition of Professional

I was considering writing an article about my background and experience to let people get to know me better. My thinking was that it would let potential clients get to know me better.

I was a little worried that anyone mentioned in my story might recognise themselves and disagree with my interpretation of events or their influence on me. Since everyone remembers things differently, this is practically inevitable.

However, something happened earlier this week that illustrates my personal philosophy far better than my life story, and won’t ruffle any feathers (or at least none that I personally care about).

I went to check out a couple of places for rent in the area. Both are in an area of town with a less than wholesome reputation, but rumours can sometimes be unfounded, so I wanted to take a look for myself. It also occurred to me that somewhere that does have a reputation might be more willing to risk taking on a self-employed tennant. 

I had arranged with the owner to look at two properties that were available. I arrived on time and had to wait in the rain for someone to show up. When someone did show up, he unlocked the first property and immediately went upstairs. I thought this was strange, but I followed him up. He told me he had things to do and left, so I started looking around upstairs first. You can see what I found in the video below.

A tour of the first house I viewed.

After viewing this house, I messaged the owner to let them know I was ready to view the other property, which I was told was twice as big, and also to ask when the house I’d already looked at would be finished. Not wanting to waste a perfect opportunity, I also mentioned that I could help them get it ready. They didn’t get back to me right away, so I hung out in The Hub while I waited.

They did get back to me though and I was able to go back later and see the second property. The property-manager/ handy-man had been told what I had said and was clearly under the impression that there was nothing wrong with the first house. So we went back and I showed him the bumps in the carpet, the missing floor tiles, the unfinished downstairs bathroom, damage to the kitchen cupboards (I don’t think you can see it in the video, but the door of the cupboard with the glasses in looked like something had chewed the bottom corner of it), and the mold.

He said that the place would be rented as it is. He also let it be known that there would be no work there for me. He said that they only hired professional contractors. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I told him that I didn’t think they’d done a good enough job. I suspect he’d done most, if not all of it, himself.

The second property was much nicer, brighter, cleaner, larger. In fact the only thing I saw wrong with it was that there were large tears in the carpets. They would have been easily covered with furniture, but I mentioned it to the property manager and asked if it would be replaced. He said no. After asking about the paint-tubs and scraps of wood in otherwise nice looking kitchen, I got a very evasive answer, as if he was telling me (a prospective tenant) that it was none of my business,

Suffice to say, even though the second property was nice, I never want to have to rely on that man to fix anything for me. Particularly since he doesn’t seem to like me much for saying that the first house wasn’t ready to be lived in.

Let’s get back to the comment he made about professional contractors. The whole line of questioning leading up to his declaration that they only hire professionals (Are you a professional? Are you a qualified tradesman?) was meant to imply that I lack the credentials to comment on or evaluate the work that had been done. As if the fact that I haven’t been to trade school disqualifies me from having standards.

I freely admit that the level of service I provide, at a very affordable rate, is that of an enthusiastic amateur. My experience with DIY has come from helping my Dad (a former plumber who also wired every socket in our old house and made a built-in vivarium for our pet reptiles) and Grandad (a joiner by trade and avid gardener) with various projects, including carpet fitting, wallpapering and plastering, and also from doing all the DIY in my own home when I lived in America.

For me, being professional is a state of mind. An attitude toward the work and your clients. It means showing up early whenever possible, getting on with the tasks requested of me as quickly and efficiently as possible, not slacking off (I give myself breaks between jobs anyway), and doing the best job I can. If I find that a job is beyond me, I get help. I’m getting to know quite a few handy-folk, many of which specialise at something I’m not so good at.

Being professional, as far as I’m concerned, means being helpful, courteous, friendly, approachable, kind and willing to go above-and-beyond to make the client happy. Yes, I don’t have a certificate that qualifies me to do odd-jobs. What I do have though is a growing number of clients that are so happy with my work that they recommend me to their friends. I even got a couple of Christmas cards and gifts.

I also think a professional should be able to listen to negative comments about their work and use that feedback to do a better job in future. The more I learn, the better I can get, and I often learn a lot more from my mistakes than I do from my successes. I don’t get in my own way.

I’m also trying very hard not to be petty or vengeful, since that would be very unprofessional of me, so I hope this post doesn’t come across as such. I admit that I am venting a little. I admit that this got under my skin a little. Hopefully, I’ve made my point without being a jerk.

Merry Christmas everyone. Have a great day.

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