Jeff Lower

Over the past several years, MAPPS has carried out an awareness campaign on the use of the term “profession.” We believe individuals involved in surveying, mapping and other geospatial services are part of a profession, rather than “industry.” But what distinguishes an individual as a professional?

True professionals can be identified by seven basic attributes.

1. They put client satisfaction first and always do more than is expected. A true professional is not bound by a time clock or the bottom line. Every surveyor and geospatial practitioner in private practice works under a profit motive, but a professional will go the extra mile to make sure a project is complete, public safety is assured and client satisfaction is achieved.

2. They continually learn more. Many states require continuing education or continuing professional development by law, but is such legislation really necessary? A genuine professional should keep up a professional level of knowledge and present a professional image by constantly learning new things.

3. They always do the right thing--especially when no one is looking. A professional engages in activities in accordance with a high standard of ethics and makes ethical decisions, small and large, even when no one is looking. Being ethical and a professional is not about meeting standards but about going way beyond them. Ethical practice includes putting public health, welfare and safety first; performing only in one’s area of competence; issuing public statements only in an objective and truthful manner; acting for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees; avoiding deceptive acts; and conducting oneself honorably, responsibly, ethically and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation and usefulness of the profession.

4. They share knowledge with others. Professionals do not hoard their knowledge; they share it freely and nurture the growth of knowledge in others. When we help others grow, we grow. A rising tide lifts all boats. A professional is a member of state and national professional societies and associations that are made up of members of their profession. A professional presents papers at society meetings and mentors young people just entering the field.

5. They help police their own profession. There is an old saying, “If you see something, say something.” When a professional sees unethical or illegal practice, he or she informs the proper authorities.

6. They maintain an active network of peers. A professional does not work in a vacuum. Professionals understand that their work is not limited to their own firm or organization. They recognize the importance of professional relationships with others in their chosen field. This is something MAPPS strives to promote through its conferences, meetings and other activities.

7. They communicate with elected officials on issues affecting their profession and the clients and public they serve. When legislation affecting their work is pending before Congress, the state legislature or the city or county council, a professional does not sit by the sidelines and let someone else speak up. A professional supports his or her societies and associations financially and gets involved.

Ultimately, the sign of a professional is to be engaged, serving the public, contributing to societal good. As Theodore Roosevelt said, it is “the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly ... who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

There are other professional issues that confront surveying, mapping and geospatial practitioners. One thing is certain: A robust dialogue and discussion of ethics is essential to being a professional.