SPEA’s Professional Development Seminar: My Experience

Today’s blog post about attending SPEA’s Professional Development Seminar comes from first year MPA/MSES student, Jeff Covert.

Our perception of professionalism is often clouded by fancy suits, TV actors and by high paychecks. For example, if you were to Google the word “professionalism” today, you would encounter many results—from the latest ties to advertisements for professional seminars—the word fits a spectrum of interpretations. A dictionary definition however directs our attention to some important aspects of the word.  The New Oxford American dictionary defines professionalism as “the competence or skill expected of a professional”. The definition stresses “skill” and “competence” and suggests that above all, a professional is one who can perform to their expectations.  As striving young professionals, it is important to stress performance as the distinguishing characteristic between a professional and an actor. Without this understanding, one can easily associate frivolous objects or actions towards becoming a professional.

The Professional Development Seminar at IU encapsulated professionalism to the fullest extent, not only through the presentations but also through the actions of the presenters. Our hosts displayed skill and competence through great rhetoric, well-prepared presentations and through providing insights from their own professional experiences. It was apparent that the IU’s skilled staff did not develop into professionals overnight; it took practice and commitment, and above all, it meant holding themselves accountable for their performance.

As a professional you are accountable for developing the skillset and competency necessary to meet the expectations associated with your position. In our constantly changing environment, this is not something to be turned on at 9 and then off at 5. Professionalism is a continuous development that allows us to meet expectations now, and in the future. By attending this seminar we were introduced to the expectations for which we will be held accountable. It is therefore our responsibility to develop, and hone in on our skills so that we may become competent, skillful individuals.

It is important to note that much responsibility comes with the title of “professional”. Everyone must hold them selves accountable, whether it is in the public or private sector, we must take responsibility for our actions because even the most skilled professionals can quickly lose credibility. We see this constantly in the news; a few people who come to mind are Lance Armstrong, Johnathan Weiner and Governor Christy. These three people have exceeded their professional expectations only to see their credibility scrutinized by one act of misconduct.  Therefore a professional must realize the fragility of their credibility, and notice that it can be lost in minutes, but take years to develop.  

The IU professionalism seminar instilled many of the important aspects of becoming a professional—competence, skills and building credibility. As students at IU, we are fortunate to be under the tutelage of professionals who hold themself accountable for our development. By attending SPEA, we are exposed to all the necessary resources enabling us to develop the skills and competence expected of a professional. However, it is up to us to take advantage of our resources and strive to become respected professionals.

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