Part 2 — The Internal Distinction

In Part 1, the meaning of “professional” was shown to vary from true believer to false prophet, and was explained as having three parts: discretionary risk (your programs’ safety-to-excitement ratio), customer knowledge (the “magic” behind your programs’ success) and customer valuation (the amount of investment in your programs and career, and your customers’ recognition and appreciation of that investment).

The conclusion was that it’s the customers who externally bestow the title “professional” on only those people who–in their discriminating opinion–actually deserve it. But, is the customers’ judgment in these matters always right?

In Part 2, the internal distinction–both organizational and personal–between an occupation and a profession will be explored. As shown in Figure 1, a profession has to do with a combination of skills, hierarchical position within the organization and, in the final analysis, the characteristics of responsibility, dedication and authenticity already introduced in Part 1.

A Job Is What You Do

Figure 1 begins with the job of Activity Facilitator. Traditionally, this position is part-time, seasonal, and offers no benefits, such as pensions or hospitalization, but employee advantages include flexibility in the number of hours worked, free time during the off-season and relief from having to worry about stressful organizational or operational matters.

Although an Activity Facilitator is expected to do a good job (and generally does), basically one is being asked only to perform specific tasks (technical skills), and get along with people (human relations skills); conceptual skills needed are few and the level of responsibility is low. A Facilitator is not defined by the job; it’s what one does for a living, not the meaning of one’s life.

Important to note, however, is that this group comprises only a small portion of Figure 1, and an Activity Facilitator also can be a professional. For example, many parks and recreation managers began their careers on the front lines as high school or college students facilitating summer programs part-time, and then worked their way up in subsequent years.

A Profession Is Who You Are

The middle of Figure 1 is devoted to the people identified internally as “professional staff”: Supervisors, Bureaucrats and Managers (Edginton, et al., 2004). Typically, these employees are full-time and receive a variety of benefits. Their technical skills are narrower, although in a specialized or focused way, and are balanced by enhanced conceptual skills. They have increased involvement with organizational or operational matters, and must have the ability to see the larger picture.

Professional in this context refers to the level of responsibility and the amount of training and experience required to fulfill employment expectations. In this sense, this internal organizational status may be matched by external customer perception of risk, knowledge and valuation, but not necessarily; the point was raised in Part 1 that an all-too-common public attitude is that “anyone can do” recreation jobs at any level.

Nevertheless, these professionals tend to be more dedicated and career-oriented. They have begun to realize that being involved with the parks and recreation field holds meaning for them beyond a paycheck, and that they derive as much satisfaction from service as the people whom they serve do from participating in programs. Parks and recreation is no longer what they do, it is who they are.

This brings us to the uppermost level in Figure 1, the elusive and overused term, “Leader.” If we have moved from the external perception of customers in Part 1 to the internal organizational status outlined above, then when we reach leadership, the trend ends inside the individual: self-perception and authenticity.

A Calling Is What You Profess

One school of thought states that, in order to lead others, you first must lead yourself. This requires a high level of conceptual ability that begins with a well-defined personal philosophy based on unshakeable values and beliefs. Not only does this philosophy guide every decision, it requires you to “walk the walk,” in other words, to publicly “profess” your beliefs through authentic word and action.

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Related posts:

  1. The Right Stuff Part 1
  2. The Right Stuff Part 2
  3. “List”ing The Essentials
  4. Giant Miniature, Part II
  5. The Facility Audit, Part 1
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