We bring you PARN's Newsweek column every Friday after its publication in print! In the first ever column, PARN CEO Andy Friedman introduces twenty-first century professionals.
Professionals are no longer an exclusive elite. The Professional Associations Research Network estimate there are over 6 million in the UK with over 400 organisations representing and regulating them. Yet we only read about a minority: doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, teachers, social workers. What about mediators, tax advisers, interpreters, and all manner of technicians?
Towards the end of the 20th century many occupations were professionalising. New associations and regulatory bodies were being founded. Older organisations, previously run more like gentlemen’s clubs, became more strategic towards professionalising practitioners. Entry standards were raised, complaints and discipline procedures were made more transparent, most significantly; continuing professional development (CPD) programmes were introduced. Up to then professional qualifications, usually attained by youths in their twenties, were sufficient to be regarded forever as genuine professionals. Today most regularly record learning activities post-qualification. Professional associations now accredit CPD and compliance is increasingly mandatory.
General media reporting on professionals overwhelmingly focuses on bad behaviour: blunders or misconduct. Doctors sexually assaulting patients, accountants misrepresenting corporate profits, nurses neglecting vulnerable old people – why is this more interesting than ‘ordinary people’ having illicit sexual affairs, fiddling their taxes or mistreating their aged parents? Certainly part of the shock we feel concerning misdoings of professionals is predicated on our expectations of them. They should be trustworthy. We presume they adhere to ethical codes, even if we do not know the content of these codes.
Here we will explore actual practice of 21st-century professionals. What makes them professionals? What dilemmas do they face? How do they deal with them? Why do we expect so much of them? We will reveal the basis for our expectation that professionals will be trustworthy and up-to-date. We will also bring to light professional practice of occupations hidden from media attention.
Professor Andy Friedman, CEO of PARN
First appeared in Newsweek, edn. 19 December 2014
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