The Six Stages of Professional Maturity Understanding the Progression of Professionalism

I believe people progress through six natural stages of professional maturity. Some mature more quickly than others, and some mature farther than others.

As leaders, awareness of these six stages helps us assess the people we bring onto our teams, determine which responsibilities to delegate to our current people, and inform us on how to help them grow.

professional maturity

We should work to improve in every stage all of the time. But before I describe the stages, I’d like to point out just how important the first two criteria are: character and professionalism.

Though I am presenting the stages as a sequential progression, I placed character first for a reason. Without standard levels of character, people usually don’t progress to the next stage of professionalism. Strong character is fundamental. We should work to refine our character throughout our entire life. Never settle for “good enough.” Hopefully, we adopted foundational morals as children, like learning not to lie, cheat, or steal. As adults, we should aim to develop our character even further. We can always be more loving, more patient, or more humble, for instance.

Second, we must practice basic professional skills. In my next article, I will further define professionalism and how to pre-plan our response when someone falls short in this area. But I will be clear on this point, if a person is not moderately mature in these two areas, he really isn’t someone I can work with. Why? Because we will constantly be dealing with issues and drama, which will hinder us from getting somewhere productive together. Lack of character and professional skills from any individual affects the entire team.

Here are the Six Stages of Professional Maturity:

  • Impeccable Character—Hopefully our character is molded well as a young child. We should have the cornerstones of good moral character ingrained in us by the time we are 4 or 5 years old. And once we are teenagers, we should have mastered these traits and instinctively know these are not merely the right things to do, but adhering to fundamental character traits also helps us advance in life. If people miss these lessons in their developmental years or choose to ignore them in adulthood, they do not make good candidates for my team.
  • Consummate Professional—Professional skills should be learned in our teens and twenties. I began understanding them in grade school and acquiring even more of them in my first job as a cook at McDonald’s. Professional decorum must be mastered early in our careers if we expect to advance at all. Everyone wants to work with professionals. Professionals respect other people’s time, meet deadlines, and finish what they start.
  • Mature Heart—Having a mature heart means we are able to control our emotions and our thoughts. We should begin developing this skill in our teens and continue to hone them throughout our twenties and thirties. In my teen years, I dealt with being afraid and anxious about who I was. In my twenties and thirties, I wrestled with other emotions like frustration and occasional outbursts of anger. So I had to work to overcome these challenges. It is rare that I work with someone in their twenties that has already obtained control in these areas. It is a maturation process. Emotional maturity adds solidarity to our leadership and professional lives; without it, seamless teamwork and steady leadership become difficult to maintain. Twitter_logo_blue
  • Skilled Hands—If we have persisted year after year in the study and practice of a particular craft, skill, trait, or area of expertise, we will add value to those we work alongside. We rarely reach a world-class level of skill in our twenties. Most have heard the axiom that it takes ten years in a particular field to achieve mastery. I have found this to be true.
  • Consistent Seeker—Becoming a seeker, beyond what we are forced to adhere to in school, is something most people miss in life. I did not become a seeker until I was shown how to about ten years ago. No one in my first 30 years of life had shown me what it means to learn and grow on purpose, to intentionally seek knowledge and wisdom. Many people learn a few skills and a certain level of wisdom early in life and then coast through on what they know to the end of their life or career. It is hard to reach this stage, or to even recognize the importance of consistently seeking, until we finish our professional education and realize we are still lacking. That’s why it is so rare that teens or people in their twenties find themselves here. It takes humility, experience, and inner-awareness to reach this stage.
  • Passionate Fighter—Few reach this point. Being a passionate fighter distinguishes us from the common professional. Twitter_logo_blue It means we find a cause that burns in our hears and propels us forward through all of the storms of life. It requires giving everything we have to everything we do. We reach this level when we willingly give our hearts for a purpose. This is where the magic happens! And, oh boy, do I love working with these people—people who are bursting with passion, and not just here “to do a good job.”

As a leader, quietly observe those around you. In what level are they lacking? Place them in responsibilities that match their level of professional maturity. Then look in the mirror. In which areas are you deficient? Work on all of these stages all of the time. I encourage you to hone those that may be holding you back.

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

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For Further Reading:

When Things Go Wrong: It’s Time to Evaluate Maturity
3 Reasons Why People Don’t Perform at Their Best

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