Are you in the “helping profession”?
How might you respond to this question? Or how have you responded to this question in the past? How do you feel about your response?
Let’s start with a conversation I had recently. (Doesn’t it all just start with a conversation?!)
Setting and context: I am checking my mail in our lobby mailbox area in my apartment
Me: Oh, thanks for the mail! I said as I had caught the mail delivery employee who delivers mail to our apartment just leaving the building.
Mail delivery employee: Oh, you are welcome. How’s your day going?
Me: Great thanks for asking. And yours?
Mail delivery person: It’s ok. So, what do you do? I see you often around this time during the day.
Me: For work? (Because we are SO much more than our jobs). I’m a Life Coach and Career Counsellor
Mail delivery: So, you are in the helping profession.
Me: Yes, As are you-thank you.
Mail delivery person: What do you mean? I’m not in the helping profession-I just deliver mail. I don’t help people.
Me: Isn’t that helping? You are helping many people receive correspondence from loved ones, receive necessary (or not) information in a trustworthy manner and you likely don’t realize how many people’s lives you have touched just by saying “hello” like you did today and creating some human connection!
Mail delivery person: I guess I didn’t see it that way. I’m not a therapist or anything.
Yes, the term ‘helping profession” is often associated with being a Counsellor, Therapist, Social Worker, Teacher (which I believe we all are), etc., As those working in these professions are often recognized (though not enough!) for their help in society due to how their roles are classified, and based on how our society’s and one’s individual view and interpretation of the word “helping” I want to draw attention to all those whose profession is categorized outside of the “helping profession” .
Specifically, I aim to highlight and acknowledge all those who fall outside of the term ‘helping profession”, acknowledge their help in the world we live in and say thank you.
In doing so, I will also bring attention and reflection on the way we use and look at what the term “helping profession”.
Of course, our professions are only one way in which we help but for the purposes of this article I will be directly referring to one’s vocation and career.
Now. I understand the importance of labelling and classification. Classifying careers into categories is necessary, helpful and constructive. Like any label however, it can also be harmful.
An example of this was when COVID 19 first came along, and you may have noticed that jobs were categorized as “essential” or “not- essential”.
Take a moment and think about that-being told your job is “non-essential”’; Being told that what you may have spent 8 hours a day or more in doing, is not essential.
This hurts even more if if you have strongly tied you identify to your career.
Tip:keep you identify small, right?
If you are interested in reading more about the impact of categorizing careers into “non-essential” and “essential”, you can go to an article I wrote for the Career Professionals of Canada called “We are all essential”
What is the “Helping Profession”?
In the world of career development, this term as per Wiktionary, refers to the “helping profession” as:
“A profession that nurtures the growth of or addresses the problems of a person’s physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional or spiritual well-being, including medicine, nursing, psychotherapy, psychological counseling, social work, education, life coaching and ministry”
This classification is used in many vocational assessments, career profiles, national occupational codes, and other career-related organizational structures and models, and can help clients identify and seek what jobs they may find rewarding, satisfying, motivating, interesting and discover careers that align with their personalities and values versus others that may not be such a great fit.
Potential Consequences of this label
Now the issue is not the category “helping profession”. This is neutral. As is its definition. It is how we interpret the words “helping” and “profession”, and how we interpret the label and meaning of the coined term “helping profession”.
For example, as the word “helping” is often associated with good thoughts, the value we place on the word “helping”, which is now attached to a profession and particular category, might prompt one to think of that profession as ‘better” than another, or hold it in higher value.
Those working outside the “helping profession” may then not receive the recognition and appreciation of their contribution in helping
If we define our vocational self concept as working in this category or not, then not working under the “helping profession” might me interpreted as working in a “non-helping” profession. Or at least some brains default to this!
For some this can lead to harmful effects. Examples that I have come across in my practice is that those falling outside of the “helping profession” may experience or be more subjected to:
- Negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs around their vocation, other identities
- Low self worth, low self-esteem, poor or confused vocational self-concept
- Feeling one is not a valued member of society, especially if the society, culture, family, idealize work within the ‘helping profession” more than other career clusters
- Feeling that they are not helping and not give themselves or receive the appreciation, recognition and value that they deserve.
In fact, when I administer vocational assessments and have a client score “low” in “helping profession” I find some clients try and justify to me, and themselves, why this might be or explain to me that they really do care about others, as if scoring “low” in the helping profession is somehow associated with a negative trait such as selfish, not caring about others, etc. Not scoring “high” in the “helping profession” and maybe not even working in a “helping profession” seems to have some negative connotations around it.
I am not suggesting getting rid of the term. As mentioned above, this classification system has its reason and function for being there.
I AM suggesting taking the time here to shine light on all the professions, and individuals working in those professions, that do not fall under this category, and acknowledge that they too, are in a profession of helping.
I AM suggesting the encouragement of a more mindful approach about the use and concept of the term “helping profession” so that we are including, and not excluding a whole group important, helpful professions that just happen to be classified outside of the “helping profession”.
Some ways this can be done is to:
- Appreciate the helping role you play in your profession
- Appreciate the helping roles of others around you
- Acknowledge that those that fall outside of the “helping profession” category is of equal importance and value to those within the category
So how about we try this mindset on and see how it feels:
We are ALL in A helping profession. All professions are helpful, and if they are no longer helpful then the profession itself will cease to exist.
Next time you meet someone or see someone doing their job, maybe take a look inside yourself and try looking at them-at you- in a different way.
How are they helping?
How are you helping?
We are all doing our part and though not all careers fall under what we label as “the helping profession” we are all in A HELPING PROFESSION, whether directly or indirectly.
I am not suggesting we nix the category but to just plant a seed of thought next time you come across this term and to maybe look around at everybody doing their part in helping, in their own way. 🙂
Each one of us is a unique, creative individual and helps in different ways.
Take the time to appreciate, recognize and thank those around. No matter what your profession, thank you everyone for your contributions and help!
So please join me and feel free to keep on adding to the list in recognizing everyone in their helping role within their profession.
I’ll start it off (no particular order).
THANK YOU for helping:
- Ticket booth Officer at BC Ferries
- My Building Caretaker
- The Telus representative that helped me with my mobile plan
- The Plumber who fixed my sink
- The Receptionist at the Vet clinic I go to
- The Amazon CSR who helped me with an issue on my account
- The Safeway employee who was restocking some vegetables that I needed (ok, wanted)
I could go on for a long time but would love for you to contribute to this list!
THANK YOU for helping……