Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupational Hazards

Used under CCL from kuminiac's album
Like the fire eater pictured here, EVERY profession - without exception - has its own occupational hazards. Some are just more visible and some have a greater element of physical danger, but it's always there. 

Often, some professions are romanticized by society and the media (e.g., software engineering in India) or are vilified by its own circumstances, actions and then some more by society and the media (e.g., police forces). To a point that its occupational hazards are completely obfuscated.

Over the years, I have been struck by a different perspective of "occupational hazard" - viz., how the core soft skills (separate from the job-related competencies) exercised in one's profession tend to unwittingly and inadvertently define the individual.

The following are examples (in no particular order) that I have encountered in my personal life - examples where I have seen professionals excel at their core skills and outperform their colleagues and then seen that very skill reflecting in their personal lives in ways that they may not have always wanted and in ways they may not even realize

Profession Key soft skills Observed Impact
Doctors Fine blend of compassion and detachment: Compassion to connect with the patient's pain, illness and suffering; detachment to ensure that the doctor can be part of the solution and not become part of the problem. This helps them deal with misery - and often, death - that they must bravely come face-to-face with every single day. Convey an image of being hardened when  they talk about pain, misery and death (and the circumstances that bring these on) with  detachment. The very detachment that makes them excel at their profession.
Sales* - Eloquence & Confidence
- Optimism without being foolish
- Zero fear of rejection without being shameless
Elan even in the absence of sufficient data and greater tolerance for white lies.
Accounts & Finance - Drive "accountability" down to the penny(/cent/paisa)
- Draw confidence and comfort from a balanced ledger
- Keen financial impact analysis ability
Tendency to seek greater comfort in arithmetic than in math - i.e., have trouble seeing the larger picture and putting things in perspective.
Software Engineers* - Syntactic and computational precision
- Top-down, divide & conquer problem-solving approach
Have a black & white perspective of life - often ignoring or failing to comprehend the hues & colors of the human touch. Often sacrificing semantic appreciation for syntactic precision*

* I am a software engineer by profession and my "recent" transition to a technical pre-sales role required a little bit of transformation. Kind of an "upgrade to color". I must admit therefore that I am called upon to practice a combination of skills of these two professions and consequently, am equally prone to a combination of their impact.

Of course, the foregoing is not intended to ridicule any profession or professional - true professionals are ones to be saluted and admired in any field. Like I have pointed out before, the emphasis is on "ways that they may not have always wanted" and "ways they may not even realize.".

The foregoing is just a conclusion I have drawn that leaves me bemused. It has made me realize that there are more occupational "hazards" and more perspectives to these "hazards" than meet the eye. And most importantly, it has served as an eye-opener for me and led me to some serious introspection. 



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