Are You a Professional? By Jason France on April 6, 2018
TIPS FOR DETERMINING IF YOU HAVE ARRIVED
BY: David A. Kolman, Senior Editor
SIMPLY HOLDING A CLASS A CDL OR BEING A TRUCK DRIVER DOESN’T MAKE YOU A PROFESSIONAL. NO CERTIFICATIONS, TEST RESULTS, OR PLAQUES ON THE WALL PROCLAIM TO THE WORLD THAT YOU’VE EARNED THAT STATURE. ALMOST EVERY STARTING DRIVER VIEWS TRUCKING AS A JOB, NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS. PROBABLY INFLUENCED BY A PARENT, RELATIVE OR A FAMILY FRIEND, ONLY A FEW NEWBIES SEE TRUCKING AS A PATHWAY TO A PROFESSIONAL CAREER. TO BE SURE, THERE’S A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING A TRUCK DRIVER AND BEING A PROFESSIONAL DRIVER. FOLLOWING ARE SOME TIPS FOR HELPING YOU DETERMINE IF YOU’VE ARRIVED.
When I first began working, my father shared some of his great wisdom with me. “David,” he said, “when it comes to working, always be professional. The foundation for professionalism is not the job you do, it’s how you do the job.”
Becoming a professional trucker begins with finding the type of driving job you want to do—OTR, regional, local, specialized, foodservice, hazmat, delivery services, expedited, etc. Next is finding the “right” company that is a good fit for you and your family, and is aligned with your ambitions, goals and objectives. From this foundation, you build your professionalism through the adoption of best practices. Here are some of the best practices that I have applied over my trucking career to become as professional as I can be.
Make a Good First Impression – It’s critical. Most people evaluate a person within the first five to 30 seconds of an initial meeting, often making decisions based on appearance, posture and demeanor. These judgments—which are part of the human condition—are normally irreversible.
Get Noticed for the Right Things – Certain key attributes can make a trucker stand out to their managers, dispatchers, operations personnel, shippers, receivers and others. Those traits include:
Credibility. Follow through on your assignments. Do what you said you’re going to accomplish within the timeframe agreed to or set.
Integrity. Demonstrate that you’re ethical, principled and honest by holding yourself to high standards, adhering to a code of conduct and setting standards by which you’re willing to live your life.
Behavior. Be serious and conscientious about what you do and take the time and effort to do good work.
Caring. Care about management directives and participate in getting things done. No one likes a laggard or complainer.
Tact & Diplomacy. Develop the ability to handle the pressures of the job, staying calm and collected. Watch your temper and employ common sense. Treat everyone fairly, courteously and respectfully.
Be a Great Trucker – This encompasses:
Understanding all the duties and responsibilities of your job and doing them well, day in and day out.
Being a team player and working with others to make sure that what needs to get done does get done.
Being able to take direction and feedback, plus accept helpful criticism and advice, and use this to become a more professional trucker.
Being a problem solver. Any trucker can find a problem or challenge. Professional truckers take it upon themselves to create solutions to problems or to overcome challenges.
Periodically ask your managers if you are meeting their expectations and see if there is anything else you could be doing to be a more valuable team member.
Keep Managers Informed – Managers typically have no idea what you really go through on a given day. Let them know of any particular problems and/or achievements. Offer creative suggestions and ideas for improving things. Good managers appreciate hearing from their “front line troops.”
A word of warning. Keep things upbeat and on a positive note. Chronic complaining makes managers aware of you for the wrong reasons.
Whenever you make managers aware of a problem or complaint, do it from a positive perspective. Rather than presenting things from your perspective, do it from the manager’s perspective, showing why dealing with the situation can be a benefit to him or her and the company.
Improve Continuously – Take responsibility for continuing to improve your knowledge, abilities and skills. Seek out training and educational opportunities.
Periodically perform a self-analysis of your job strengths and weaknesses. Try to identify any deficiencies that, when corrected, represent a potential for professional and earnings growth.
Master Change – The trucking industry is changing constantly, and the changes are occurring more rapidly. Gain the knowledge to be ahead of change by acquiring an awareness of trends, developments, technology, methods and processes; then stay up-to-date on them.
Maintain a Positive, Enthusiastic Attitude – There’s little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it’s positive and/or negative.
Developing and strengthening a positive attitude can work wonders. Think about it. Who would you rather be around, someone who is upbeat, or someone who is down in the dumps?
Increase Your Value
Applying best practices will assist in making you a more professional trucker. As such, you will stand out. That will improve your value to your managers and company. This, in turn, makes you more of an asset, and that will help with earning, promotion and career advancement possibilities and opportunities.
What’s your conclusion?
Have you arrived at a point where you consider yourself a true trucking professional? If you agree with most of the above ideas, tips and suggestions and actually put them into practice, you’ve probably arrived. If not, keep working at it. You can narrow the gap between being just another truck driver and being what those all around you consider to be a professional truck driver. The more professional you become, the more rewarding everything about the job becomes to you on a personal level. You’re the only one who can control your destiny in search of true professionalism.