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Is Your Job Your Profession?
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This Page
When you talk about your job, do you describe it as a profession? I have heard hundreds of conversations about the work maintenance and engineering managers do in institutional and commercial facilities, but rarely do I hear managers refer to the job as a profession.
Maybe it's time to start using that word.
The blind spot most managers have in this regard is understandable. After all, only in the last decade or so have the elements of a profession emerged for maintenance and engineering management.
First, a somewhat standardized and formalized body of knowledge has evolved. This knowledge relates to proven best practices for successfully overseeing the maintenance, repair and operation of facilities. Today, a growing number of colleges and universities offer two- and four-year degrees in facility management, and other institutions offer specific types of certifications related to facility and maintenance management.
Second, an array of professional associations and unions involved in some aspect of facility maintenance and engineering management have introduced certifications and credentials managers can point to as proof of their professionalism.
Third, managers are increasingly seeking opportunities for professional development. They are searching for the latest thinking in areas of maintenance and engineering management that range from water-conservation and energy-efficiency strategies to personnel and financial management. Managers know they must continue learning about these and other pressing issues to survive and thrive in the workplace.
Maybe this final element is the one that got me thinking about the evolution of maintenance and engineering management from a job to a profession. I spent two days last month at the Facility Decisions Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. (Breaking news: In 2012, the conference changes its name to NFMT Vegas.)
Listening to attendees from the gamut of institutional and commercial facilities talk among themselves and ask questions of speakers, I got the sense many of them were doing more than simply gathering facts and figures — and solutions — to take back to their departments. They were comparing experiences with their peers in an effort to figure out their place in this evolving ... profession.
Why is it important to think of and refer to your job as a profession? Because doing so can mean greater respect for you, your responsibilities and your department. It can open doors to meetings, discussions and decisions that otherwise would take place without tapping into your deep knowledge of the way your facilities operate.
Without the benefit of that knowledge and experience, these deliberations might fail to take into account the contribution that safe, reliable, cost-effective, and energy-efficient facilities make relative to an organization's overall physical well-being and financial health.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.