Can I have a P please Bob?

You probably have to be a certain age to appreciate the title of this blog. I used to rush home from school to watch ‘Blockbusters’ which was a cult viewing television quiz for the teenagers of my day. The question master, Bob Holness, became an unlikely hero for millions of school children who tuned in to hear if anyone would be brave enough to ask the question. “Can I have a P please Bob?” It still makes me smile.

I’ve been thinking about the letter ‘P’ recently in the context of “Am I an SBP?” “Am I a School Business Professional?” We’ve got SBMs, SBLs and now we’re moving towards SBPs. In the US they have SBOs (School Business Officials) and SBAs (School Business Administrators). It can all get very confusing for us. What must it be like for someone outside the profession?

I like the idea of the new name. I like that it suggests I am a “professional” but what does that actually mean? My dictionary tells me that a “professional”* is “a person engaged in one of the learned professions“.

OK.

What is a “learned profession”?

Apparently, there are five traditional professions – architecture, clergy, engineering, law and medicine. Nope, that’s not me. (Although I do often tell Barry that my word is law!)

But, reading on, it seems we’ve moved on from the narrow “traditional” professions and most of us are willing to accept that there are many other careers that can be described as “professions”. I’m willing to bet that when the five “professions” were decided upon, no one thought to consider Accountant, Marketing Director, Vet, Quantity Surveyor, Athlete, Game Designer, Pilot, Astronaut…I could go on…

Google tells me that all professions have the same fundamental characteristics;

  • Great responsibility
  • Accountability
  • Are based on specialised, theoretical knowledge
  • Require institutional preparation (I’m guessing that means you have to have undertaken further education – not that you needed to spend time in a hospital or prison)
  • Autonomy
  • Clients rather than customers
  • Direct working relationships
  • Ethical constraints

Check, check, check and check. Doesn’t that sound just like me?

Clearly, in my role, I am a professional. My role is of vital importance and I hold myself accountable for the quality of my work (although I must accept an ultimate overseer). I have specialised knowledge, some of which is recognised by my qualifications and some by my years of practical experience in the role. I have control over my work, I help define terms, processes and conditions through my strategic work. The work I do directly effects the “client” and there are very obvious requirements for ethical constraints. The only box that I don’t tick is that I don’t “choose” my client as such but “accept any interested party, as merchants do” (insert your preferred laughing emoji here).

On reflection, I think one of the things that puts me off calling myself an SBP is because I can clearly see that there are colleagues in my industry (and we all know who they are) who I perceive to be working at a higher level than me. That means, in my head, they are the professionals. I’m something…less. Not bad less. Not of lesser value. Just…less.

Of course, the benefit of these wonderful people is that they give me something to aspire to and something to aim for. Their example encourages me to work harder, to think deeper and to put myself out of my comfort zone so that I can learn and grow to be like them. If I declare myself to be a “professional” like them now, will it shut off my ambition? Will I start to coast through life? Or will there be something beyond “professional” that I can then aspire to?

If I’m honest, I don’t much care what you call me. I just want to be on a path to the top of this “School Business Profession” that I love. I’m willing to help wherever I can to promote it, both inside and externally to the industry, to raise awareness, to lift its status among other business professions and attract the very best to come and join us.

So, if you don’t mind, I won’t ask, I’ll just declare…”I’m going to take a P, Bob.”

*Wow, there are a lot of quotation marks in this blog!

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