So you call yourself a professional

If you’re a lawyer a doctor, an EMT, and many like professional services, you are required to maintain the professional designation by continuously learning and by participating in professional conferences and associations.

The “career field” I’m in is considered a professional career field. It doesn’t have the same rigorous level of education requirements that you find with doctors and lawyers, but it’s professional just the same.

Even the military has the Profession of Arms and believes there is a level of professional training throughout your career to maintain and consistently build upon your capabilities.

If you maintain a professional certification common in my career, and they are from PMI and/or ASQ, then you have to maintain a level of continuous education requirements. This is true for doctors and lawyers and even as an EMT, I was required to keep the certification current through various activities.

There are, in my career, many (like me) that hold certifications that don’t require continuous education and certification requirements. These certifications, Lean Six Sigma and Change Management are essentially the same as those offered by PMI and ASQ, so, in my mind, they require the same level of dedication.

This brings me to the crux of this blog. If you hold a professional certification or status, then I know there are conferences and organizations that support that. At least some of them probably have local meetings in your area. The ASQ Section in San Antonio meets monthly and takes a break for summer. Additionally there is a Continuous Improvement Professionals (CIP) organization that a friend of mine and I stood up here in San Antonio that is now run by UTSA and meets monthly. Everyone that works in the fields related to this should be attending at least some of these meetings.

When I was actively involved in project management, but didn’t have the certification, I regularly went to PMI meetings and there were easily over 100 people that would attend. I went to the ASQ meeting last night and they had one of their biggest showings with about 32 people. The IIBA meeting in town sees about 10 people on average.

I work with over 70 others that call themselves Process Engineers…many of them are certified in Lean Six Sigma. Additionally, there are easily 30 to 50 Change Managers, most certified in Prosci. Add in Business Managers, Business Architects, Business Analysts, Business Support Analysts, and the list goes on. All total, there are probably easily over 1,000 professional positions and their leadership running around my 26,000-person company.

At most, I have seen four (including me) attend the local ASQ Meetings. Three of those (including me) regularly present at the meetings.

So, you call yourself a professional?

Holding a job title and just doing a job does not a professional make. I think there are a few very specific things that all professionals should do:

1. If you are in a professional role, you should have an appropriate level of education and certification. Personally, not only do I have have a Master’s Degree, but it is in Quality Systems Managment–way beyond a basic MBA, but very focused on what I do every day. Very few people in the world have this degree–it’s from National Graduate School, which I’m now adjunct faculty with. I have earned a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt in my career. Additionally, I have a Master’s-level Certification from Georgetown University in Change Management and I am certified in Change Management from Prosci. Although not a project manager, I’ve been fully trained in Project Management through PMI. Over the next few years, I plan to get my PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Now some of you might be looking at that paragraph and thinking, “Really, do you need all that education and certification?” If this is your job, how much is “good enough?” Is that the type of person you are…a good enough person? This is my job and if I’m not constantly learning, then I’ll grow stale in my position and not be able to effectively perform my job. Personally, I have a desire to be the best at what I do. If you think what you have is good enough, then obviously, you are not interested in being the best at what you do.

2. Be well read. Every month, new business books come out on the professional types of jobs that I work in. Officially, my position title is process engineer, but daily I do much more. I bring to the table strategic planning; change management; strategic communication; organizational design; strategic human capital; education, training, and development; program and project management; performance management; as well as process management and improvement. So, to stay current in all these things, many of which don’t even have a career certification, I read a lot. As a matter of fact, I probably have a third more books than I have read. I’m always buying books that relate to what I do. Some I read cover to cover and some sit on my shelf for future reference or reading. To this end, I’m building a full wall built-in bookshelf in my office at the house. Additionally, I receive many business magazines that I review and sometimes read and review many blogs and websites dedicated to the above fields. I guess I have a desire to be as up to date in current technologies and practices as possible so what I’m doing is current. What’s good enough for you?

3. I started this blog with a discussion about professional organizations. I was in the military for 21 years and I am a life member of every professional military association that one could normally join for my branch. I’m not even in the military anymore (retired) and those associations keep me current and up to date with what is happening to the military. Some of them even fight for my benefits on the Hill. In my profession; however, I belong to several organizations and I have popped in and out of others, like PMI and SHRM based on the current work I was doing. I have been an ASQ member for over ten years–after I returned from overseas–and today, I am a Senior Member of ASQ. However, I’m not just a member, I often attend local meetings and when possible attend conferences. Many times I have funded my own way to these conferences. In some cases, I have held leadership positions. For the Air Force Sergeants Association, I have held some of the highest nonprofit leadership positions. So, joining is great…you get to list it on your resume, but participating in professional organizations is where you grow.

I know I’m the oddity in this because I belong to so many and participate all the time. But, why am I the oddity? Why am I one of the few that thinks it’s important to have a great network, to stay current, to hear differing views and approaches, and to actively professionalize my career field? Is what you’re doing good enough?

4. There could be many other things I might recommend to being a true professional, but the one I’ll end with is sharing your knowledge. Day in and day out you do the job…that’s what you’re paid for. But how to you share what you know? Do you regularly teach others on things they need to know, even if you don’t know it that well yourself? Do you not only attend professional meetings, but offer up to regularly present at the local meetings? Do you set up impromptu lunch and learns for teams at work? Are you involved with local educational programs teaching others coming into this career field? Or is doing your job good enough?

Obviously I could have called this blog “good enough,” but really it’s about what it means to truly be a professional. Doing the job every day isn’t enough. If you aren’t constantly growing and sharing, then you aren’t learning you’re just doing. If you really want to be a professional, stop saying that what you’re doing today is good enough and start saying that it’s never enough.

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About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

2 Responses to So you call yourself a professional

  1. christinee02 says:

    Reblogged this on Queen in the Queen City and commented:
    This article really hit home for me at this point in my career. It’s about being a true professional and whether what you’re doing is really enough. I especially relate to the paragraph about sharing your knowledge. I happen to believe the true test of a leader and someone who passes on what they know to others. Enjoy!

    • johnrknotts says:

      Thanks for sharing and I am glad the message hit home. All too often, people aren’t willing to share what they know, but I’ve found I learn more most of the time by teaching than doing.

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