What?!? You go to work every day and pour countless hours into your job, and now you are being questioned on what you are doing to advance your profession? I know, it seems like extra work and you may feel you don’t have time or energy to do it. But, to support the growth of your profession, I think it is important for you to step up and help advance your profession.
This semester, I am taking a course on public management in which we are discussing the profession of public management. As you might imagine, when you throw together a dozen doctoral students it can take us weeks to define a word like “profession.” But I did come across a definition by Michael McGuire that I think pretty well sums it up:
A “profession” emerges as occupational groupings mature and there is an identifiable body of technical knowledge. Members begin to identify with colleagues in other jurisdictions or even nations, develop standards of conduct and professional practice, and establish minimum professional qualifications and experience.*
How to advance your profession
There are various ways we can each contribute to advancing the profession. Here are a few strategies you can use to advance the profession:
- Ethics: Practice strong ethical behavior. By acting ethically, you are ensuring the profession grows in accordance to high ethical standards. Some professions have “codes of ethics” for practitioners to following include the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the National Association of Social Workers. Strong ethical decisions will reflect well on you and the entire profession.
- Certification: Demonstrate your knowledge and set of skills by seeking a certification. A certification results from completing an assessment process to demonstrate the knowledge and experience you have gained in a particular industry. (Check out this great comparison of Certification vs. Certificate) Depending on your specialty, there are various certifications available for nonprofit professionals including the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), the Certified Communications Professional (CCP), and the Certified Association Executive (CAE). Explore a certification that you want to strive to achieve and go after it!
- Continuing Education: Further your education through participating in continuing education and/or pursuing an advanced degree in your field. Attending local, regional and national conferences are a great way to stay up to date with industry trends. Also, may local professional organizations offer continuing education workshops for members. If you are interested in a graduate degree, look for a program that focuses on your interest area and also is feasible given your job responsibilities. (For individuals interested in advanced degrees in in nonprofit management, Roseanne M. Mirabella, Ph.D. at Seton Hall University has compiled a very comprehensive list of nonprofit graduate programs.) As the profession continues to evolve, there continues to be so much to learn. Do yourself a favor and invest in your education.
- Networking: Remember to make time to connect with other industry professionals through networking opportunities. Join a professional organization, whether it is American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Women in Communications (AWC), Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) or one of the many other excellent professional organizations in existence. These are great groups to meet fellow professionals to exchange ideas, best practices and job opportunities. Continue to grow and expand your professional network and connect with others in your industry.
Why it’s important to advance your profession
By advancing the profession, you are strengthening the nonprofit sector. You are improving your skills and knowledge while continuing to strengthen and define what it means to be a nonprofit professional.
So step up, and advance your profession!