I’m 4 days late to this #Ragtag Daily Prompt party, but I figure I have to reflect on “Professional” seeing as my blog is “Jewish Young Professional”.
I usually default to the Cake Wrecks definition of “professional”, meaning you got paid to do something. If someone out there thinks you are sufficiently skilled enough at something that they are willing to pay you to do it, you’re a professional. By that definition, I have been a professional leyner (Torah reader), a professional pot salesman (and by pot, I mean cookware, not marijuana. I worked in a cookware retail store), and a professional sandwich maker at different points in my life, in addition to now being a Corporate America Professional™. Fun fact, did you know that I, Jewish Young Professional, was once a bacon, egg & cheese sandwich professional? Yup, I got paid to make them at the sandwich shop. (Another fun fact: I went to look up whether Jews deriving benefit from pork, eg. getting paid to make bacon sandwiches, is allowed by Halacha and this medical paper in JAMA came up in the search results before any Jewish websites.)
But there are issues with this definition, with an obvious one is that willingness to pay someone to do something does not in fact mean that the person paid is good at the contracted task. The person contracting the work could have low expectations. For example, my dad once paid me $3 to weed the yard. I definitely would not call myself a professional gardener, and neither would he. Dad just wanted someone who would do that task for a maximum of $3. But also, payment does not always correlate well to skill. For example, the Cake Wrecks blog.
I know that “If I get paid, then I have skill” is not necessarily true, and I have no trouble believing this. But I struggle to believe that the inverse, “If I do not get paid, then I do not have skill” is also not necessarily true. Rationally, I know this inverse is not true (in this case). But I tend to have hard time believing it. It has made it very difficult for me to accurately assess the degree of skill that I have.
For example, I have a complicated relationship with my singing voice. It is good (-ish? I think? Honestly, it is such a complicated relationship that it took me like twenty minutes to decide how to describe my singing voice), but not good enough.
The best, most memorable compliment that I ever received my voice was not the many congregants who have praised my Torah and Haftarah reading, nor the occasionally-impressed co-workers at happy hour karaoke, but the one exceptionally drunk stranger who told me this:
Your voice is great! Like, you could make money singing and you wouldn’t even have to show your cleavage!”Random Drunk Dude
See, it felt like a Real Compliment because it suggested that people would be willing to pay money to hear my voice. That said, Random Drunk Dude’s assessment was incorrect, as no one has ever paid for the privilege of listening to me sing. My skill is such that I have to pay to get others to listen to me sing, eg. by buying sheet music for the choir, buying drinks at karaoke, etc. This feels like a metric I should consider when assessing my skill, but I also know that’s dangerous to think of money earned as the only way to measure skill and worth.
Switching gears, it’s interesting to consider the impact of “professional” as an adjective and as a noun. For example, imagine seeing the job titles below on LinkedIn or something:
- Professional Pot Sales – My first reaction to this is “Wow, JYP must be really good and experienced at selling pot(s). She sounds like she sells high-end pot(s) or to high-end clients. I would trust JYP over those amateur, low-end cookware and/or marijuana salespeople.“
- Pot Sales Professional – My first reaction to this is “JYP wants to be in a cookware and/or marijuana sales role, but she’s actually unemployed. She is trying to add the word “professional” to make me forget that she’s actually unemployed. I don’t really want to hire her for my open pot sales position.“
Not sure why “Professional” as a job title on LinkedIn always makes me think “Unemployed”. It could just be me.
Then there is this whole other context, where Jewish Young Professional = Single and Looking. I really didn’t do the active dating thing because I was too busy being in strange relationships with the wrong people and then met Now-Husband by accident. Dating culture has its own vocabulary and context. The event where I met Now-Husband was a Jewish social event hosted by an Orthodox Rabbi and billed as an event for Young Professionals. I showed up because I thought Young Professionals = People Not In College. I absolutely never would have gone to a singles’ event. Now-Husband, however, had been actively dating and he showed up because he thought Young Professionals = Singles and he wanted to go to a singles’ event. Hence, when I chose “Jewish Young Professional” for my blog, I had to put “not single or looking” everywhere. Not that I think there are that many people itching to be with someone who is hopeless at adulting with an unprofitable singing voice, but then again, this is the internet.