Power through Preparation, Performance, Commitment

By Barker, Dedria H. | Diversity Employers, October 1994 | Go to article overview

Power through Preparation, Performance, Commitment


Barker, Dedria H., Diversity Employers


Professional power is acquired through a rite of passage marked by long academic preparation, certification or licensure, adherence to an ethical code, and commitment to continued development.

Two years ago, a friend telephoned Marquita Brooks for legal advice. Threatened with dismissal from her job that day, the friend was being pressured to sign legal papers.

"If their lawyer presents a legal document, you need legal representation also. Ask them to allow your lawyer to be present at your dismissal hearing," Brooks told her friend on the telephone. Then Brooks strolled over to the office of her friend, who soon became her client.

Though she was held at bay in the office lobby and never allowed into where the discussions were being held, attorney Brooks was effective that day. Her client kept her job another year.

That's power. Power to make things happen, or not. The desire for power and the ability to use power effectively are strong incentives to entering a profession such as law, medicine, or architecture. Professional power is acquired through a rite of passage marked by long academic preparation, certification or licensure, adherence to an ethical code, and commitment to continued development.

The first step in considering a profession is undergraduate experience in an area related to the profession. Working in the environment where the profession practices, such as a hospital, can help you "try out" the profession. Extra-curricular experiences also help develop support for the academic process and the eventual job search, employers say. This is especially true in those professions, like veterinary medicine where African Americans are underrepresented and targeted for recruitment.

"African-American veterinarians are not easy to find," says Sandra Svec, equal employment opportunity director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture. "By the time we locate them, they are working with a company through either sponsorship or an internship."

Countless and, seemingly, endless examination and testing are parts of the game. Nearly every professional school requires admission tests. And even those confident of their ability, like biology major Douglas Leigh, who applied to ten dental schools and was accepted by seven, will still feel the pressure of time restraints on admission tests.

At the other end of the academic process are licensure exams. "I was definitely intimidated by the Bar exam," says Howard University Law School graduate Marquita Brooks, now a member of the Washington, DC and Pennsylvania Bars. "There aren't many people who aren't," she adds.

Michael Rogers, president-elect of the National Organization of Minority Architects, recalls one work session of his licensure exam as "12 consecutive hours of sweating."

Professional ethics, i.e. codes of behavior, list a minimum standard of professional performance. Professional priorities include doing the job to the best of one's ability and continuing to develop professional skills. Underlying the code are the intrinsic values of the profession. According to ethical standards, being a professional means more than getting paid.

Professional ethics also push an idealistic regard for the work. "The architect should be the one person who stands up for what's good and what's right," says Rogers about his profession. But his ethical perception can apply to all the professions.

This article briefly explains the professions of law, dentistry, medicine, nursing, architecture, and veterinary medicine. In addition, each section heading offers a career planning approach used by a practioner in a particular profession that also can be applied to all other professions.

Law: Make a Contribution

Knowledge of the law and the legal system acts as a natural catalyst for opportunities for yourself and others.

"Big people like to pick on an underdog," says attorney Brooks of her friend with the job problem. …

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