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Bringing the Personal to the Professional

Written By: Semiha Abdulmelik
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Personal to the Professional

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A long-held notion about professionalism is that it entails the ability to leave the personal at home. Implicit in this belief is that the personal should be set aside as one goes to work-arguably because it has a (potentially) negative bearing on the world of work at worst and is unnecessary in the workplace at best. As employees, we are asked to show up and give 100% – but only bring our technical expertise, experience, and ‘relevant’ skills along. However, in the increasingly competitive workplace in which we work and sectors we move around in, where very little differentiates one colleague from the next, we must increasingly look at the fuller person-and what more they can begin to actively, reflectively, and consciously draw on which may not be conventionally listed on the terms of reference for the positions we occupy.

I would not call myself a poet-rather I write poetry. And savor reading in that particular style. This is not something new-I have been drawn to poetry since middle school, close to two decades ago. My love of poetry and that particular art form shapes me. Poetry is an approach.
The great American poet Robert Frost once said, ‘’I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering”. Hence, poetry shapes my comfort with and acceptance of emergence, an acknowledgement that we cannot commence with predetermined ends, and that an open process can lead us to where we need to go. Poetry also hones one’s ability to encapsulate potent, big, and pregnant ideas and thoughts in small packages.

It is not only our ‘extracurricular’ passions and habits that present critical personal resources that we can draw from. Our various identities and subcultures that we subscribe to can also provide us with powerful metaphors, languages, images and perspectives that can inform the search for literal and figurative solutions to the critical challenges that form our work. I am a woman of East African heritage. That means many things. For one, the importance of the Nile river in our imagery and consciousness. It represents an important connective thread and image for many of us in the region-it is a symbol of linkages, interdependence, and collective problem solving-as well as the pull of migration and our diasporic communities.

On that note, I leave you with a poem called the Nile Series.

bint al nil (daughter of the Nile)
azraq (blue) gushing through her veins
drawing her to far oceans
pulling towards closer rivers

So, here is to 2017-the year when we bring more of ourselves-draw more from our personal repertoire to influence our work and professional thinking.

Written By Semiha Abdulmelik

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