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Richard L. Smith Jr. is a proud St. Petersburg College alumni who went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Tampa. He is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) through Project Management Institute and brings more than ten years of experience in project management within the production and entertainment industry. Over the last eight years, Richard has served in multiple Student Support roles at SPC, including Student Support Services Mentor, Career and Academic Advisor, and currently, Employment and Internship Coordinator. He is a graduate of SPC’s Leadership class of 2019 and presently serves on the College of Computer Information and Human Services Advisory Boards. Lastly and proudly, Richard is a member of the African American Male Success Taskforce, with the goal of closing the achievement gap plaguing the African American male population.

Self-upgrading: Lessons learned from a hermit crab

A hand holding a very small hermit crab.

Recently, I had the chance to visit one of Florida’s beautiful beaches with my family. Walking along the beachfront we saw beautiful shells, birds, and mangroves along the shore. The crystal clear water was refreshing with shallow wave breaks that allowed to wade out several feet offshore and still see the bottom.

As we searched for sand dollars, I stepped on something and stopped to pick it up; to my amusement, it was a beautiful shell with a hermit crab inside. It is fascinating to see these creatures who are born with no shell but must search the seafloor to find shelter and protection. Hermit crabs use abandoned seashells as mobile homes. As the crabs grow the shell becomes a tighter fit and eventually, it needs to move into a new shell. The crab must search for a new shell until it finds the right size for its current level of growth.

The hermit crab is on an everlasting journey of continuous growth.

Personal growth in your career

Hermit Crab on the Beach

As a career development professional, I speak to students providing guidance along their own journeys of growth. Out of the many ideas we discuss with students regarding their career after college, I always mention professionalism.

The 10 Traits of Professionalism are explained to help students understand the importance of being professional in the workplace. Consistently, I remind the students everything regarding their degree major of choice will not be learned in the classroom. Successful completion of a degree is the beginning of their education in a profession. The one trait that embodies the spirit of growth, in particular, is self-upgrading.  

Self-upgrading can be defined as continuing to learn and seek new knowledge in your career field. Just as the hermit crab must search for a new home to grow; students should always seek opportunities for growth and self-upgrading. Complacency can create a stagnate environment; stagnation is unhealthy for your career development.

Key takeaways from the observation of a hermit crab

  • Grow – As you aim to move into your professional career you must remember growth. Growth will happen inevitably; it is your job to guide that growth into an enriching environment.
  • Explore – Explore your surroundings for opportunities. As the seafloor is covered with shells; opportunity surrounds us everywhere.
  • Discover – When you make the decision to explore you will discover new information previously unknown to you.
  • Leave Room – Leave room for growth. When you discover your new space remember your growth will continue and you must leave room to build upon your current knowledge.

Below I have listed the 10 Traits of Professionalism. As you continue to move forward in your career development journey consider your image of professionalism.

  • Competence
  • Reliability
  • Honesty
  • Integrity Respect for Others
  • Self-upgrading
  • Positivity
  • Supportive
  • Diligent
  • Good Listener