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Professional status - where do project professionals figure?

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A recent poll published by the Guardian asked people how much status particular groups of people have in society today. The sample surveyed was representative of UK population as a whole. Top of the pile unsurprisingly were doctors and nurses, followed in order by: teachers, lawyers, architects, social workers, computer consultants, management consultants, politicians, website designers, bankers and last of all journalists. 

The Guardian notes that journalists were at the bottom of the respect pile 10 years ago so not much has changed, especially when you realise that this poll was completed in mid July at the height of the phone-tapping scandal. So is there anything that the professionals in project management can take from this survey? Its good to see that professions where project managers are likely to be found feature in the middle rankings, although I do wonder where project managers would fit if the question were asked, given the media profile of PMs thanks to The Apprentice!  Bankers fare worse than politicians, although interestingly the Guardian chose to report the findings otherwise, claiming that politicians were second last.

Professional status is one of the key reasons why people choose to join professional bodies, including APM. But the challenge to the professional body is then to create value around a very intangible requirement. How does a member judge whether their professional body is meeting their needs in terms of professional status? What tangible or visible benefits satisfy them?  Post-nominals, demand for particular qualifications amongst recruiters and employers, seeing your professional body mentioned regularly in the media  - these are the most-mentioned when we ask the question. But am I missing something and if so, what is it?



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  1. Paul Makinson
    Paul Makinson 12 August 2011, 05:58 PM

    As far as I'm aware, PMs have little or no status in society. Most people don't know what we do and what they do know is fed to them by TV shows like "The Apprentice" which, of course, are quite wide of the mark. But don't get hung up about it. Most people don't know what many other professions do either. If we want status in society, we have to do jobs that impinge directly onto society's consciousness. That's why doctors, vets, lawyers, accountants, dentists etc have high status. My wife, who's a vet, can witness someone's passport application as a professional person of some standing but I, as a PM, am not considered worthy. I partly blame (sorry about this) the professional bodies for failing to explain to society what we do. It's the same with the engineering professions. I'm a chemical engineer by training and I lost count of the number of times that people thought I fixed cars or drove trains for a living. In Victorian times, the great engineers (like Brunel) did have status. Engineers like Brunel were as much PMs as engineers - where did it all go wrong?

  2. Iain Simpson
    Iain Simpson 04 August 2011, 02:30 PM

    Hi Julie,I find great value in the community aspect. The experience gained volunteering with like-minded peers who are passionate about project managemen has helped me form good realtionships with great people; and has accelerated my career development.What I think we're missing:If APM and PMI worked in harmony; joint events; joint projects; joint goals; that would be a great thing. The disparity hinders us and our development.Indeed, we're planning a joint event in Aberdeen, Scotland (a facilitated workshop), to discuss what members would like to see if we had a joint Scottish Conference in 2012.I'll be learning more about APM to help make this happen (most of my experience so far has been with PMI), but I'm keen for us all to work together.Also, getting PM learning in schools is one of my goals, and I'd like this to be accredited by both organisations.Iain.

  3. John Bryden
    John Bryden 04 August 2011, 01:16 PM

    Its a very limited survey but its interesting that the top 6 are all professions with acreditation and the ability to be struck off (doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer, architect, social worker) and the bottom 6 aren't (banker, computer consultant, management consultant, politician, website designer, journalist).So this does seem to reflect that professional status does lead to respect and the moves towards professionalism are the right way to go. Your comments about differentiation between professional bodies is interesting.I think that the competition between different project management institutes and associations and the different awards and qualifications leads to fragmentation even within the project management industry. I'd like to see the visibility of professional project managers (regardless of whethere they are members of PMI or APM or equivalent) raised which would then build the perception of professionalism beyond the practitioners.Once we have a perception of professionalism then the PMs can judge which professional body is best for them, this would be the same as in medicine, where doctors are perceived as being professionals regardless of which society they are a member of. Obviously if APM can offer a chartered status then it would have an extra differentiator.So for now I'd like to hear the phrase "professional project manager" more and more.