Expectations of Professions

                 I was watching a news clip recently of Bill Cosby, during which there was a comment about his service in the Navy.  Immediately I looked up the information to find out that he had been a hospital corpsmen.  While my regard for Bill Cosby has always been high, this elevated my respect for him because he is a military veteran.  I stopped and thought about my reaction to learning about his service time – why did his service make a difference?  The bottom line I came up with is simply because it does.  I went a step further to decide if my reaction was in kinship with him as a fellow Navy veteran or because of his service alone.  It was because of his service alone, I decided. Then I thought about some other professions that inspire this same sort of immediate respect: doctor, police officer, clergyman. 

                 Analyzing the general characteristics of a US military member, a list of words comes to mind: disciplined, honor, hardworking, committed, and trustworthy, to name a few.  These same words are usually applied to inspiring people and leaders as well.  Upon learning that someone is a veteran, there is an automatic correlation of these character traits to the person.  Along with the qualities listed comes an expectation of performance. People who are assigned these types of characteristics must continue this type of lifestyle at all times. This may be unfair, but it is the truth.  When people in respected positions act in a way that is contrary to our expectation, it is hard to overlook or forgive.  In fact, I think it is harder to excuse poor behavior or lapse of judgment for these persons than it is for say a professor.

                 Why is that?  Why should we expect more?  People in certain professions are specifically trained for leadership roles.  They are taught to handle crisis situations, people management, and technical competence. That is part of why society automatically associates desirable traits with the profession.  It is then up to the individual person to live up to society’s expectations and perform at or above the level required. 

                 

          Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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  1. #1 by Ikonographi on April 30, 2012 - 4:05 pm

    As veterans, we do indeed share some common traits; One can hardly ignore the fact that regardless of branch, rank or specialty, someone who has experienced military training will forever be changed by it. My own experience altered my perceptions and reactions upon entering civil life; I wish I could say that the effect was universally positive. However as it is with many of us, there are things to take away from our service, and things to leave behind.

    A familiarity and inclination to work within a hierarchy, the ability to expand from our immediate scope or responsibility, and a strong sense of accountability…these tend to describe “Vets” in the workforce pretty well. And yet, I could also add: Impatience with protocol, a tendency to grow weary of repetitive tasking or lack of challenge, and higher than realistic expectations of co-workers or subordinates. The military takes people who are quite young, teaches them skill sets enviable among their civil counterparts, then ask them to perform under arduous conditions. How can we not grow a little “arrogant”?

    In my own transititon, the critical point came when I realized that no intrinsic value passed from my service into my new career past the interview. True, it opened the door…but every day afterwards was something I’d never done or experienced before. Part of my successful adaptation was letting the “uniform” go…oh yes, I still enjoy enthralling the office with tales of “The Fleet” or my time in the “Sandbox”…even take my ship’s seal coffe cup to board meetings. Still, I had to accept inwardly that I have time to make not “brilliant” decisions, but consistent ones-I can tolerate some level of imperfection in the system because I see it could always be worse-I realize that for the vast majority of my peers, this isn’t their total committment, and will always come second to homes, families and children-I have ceased looking for a “calling” beyond doing the best I can to ensure I earn my compensation and the trust of my superiors.

    An unfortunate flaw in our military training is that only token consideration is given for longevity in a profession where the average retirement age is in the late forties or early fifties. In civil life, one can “burn” through high risk, high pay positions…civilian employeers love to hire “Gung-Ho” ex-JO’s for a fraction of their counterparts…Trouble is, they rarely expect more than a handful of years before we either run out of steam, have a breakdown, or simply flout policy enough to be cashiered discreetly. The senior level managers I know who survived the change from “warrior” to “captain of industry” did so by realizing they would not find themselves in an equal position (for real) until they had put in some years at their new companies.

  2. #2 by The Professional Development Team on April 30, 2012 - 7:47 pm

    Do you think the transition assistance courses do enough to help service members transition? I experienced the same sort of thoughts and realizations you did. My husband struggled with the change more than I did but he did a full 20 years. The hardest part for me was having to accept that my standards and expectations had to be lowered in order to survive civilian life.

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