I’ve embarked on a new challenge this semester that is taking me way out of my usual “comfort zone” so far as my own capabilities are concerned…I’m taking “Introductory Mandarin Chinese.”
Some of you may wonder what’s significant about this given that I’m always taking advantage of the on-site and on-line learning opportunities offered by the Public Relations Society of America, PRSA Boston Chapter, Publicity Club of New England, and other organizations.
My students at Curry College (where I’m taking the course and where I teach most of the Public Relations courses in our undergraduate Communication Department) are somewhat bemused, and my wife…who has patiently put up with my shenanigans for many years…is baffled.
There were a number of factors that played into this decision, among which were timing (the course runs at a time of day that works for my own teaching schedule) and a concern on my part that I’ve gotten a little complacent in my own education. Hence…Introductory Mandarin.
A commitment to professionalism is more than just learning the tactics and techniques of a particular career field.
You can become very, very good at what you do through years of practical application. But, or at least this is my take on it, professionalism is more than that. Professionalism itself implies a commitment to continued self-education and development. It’s a promise to yourself and to those who rely on you for advice and counsel that you will take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to add to or refresh your knowledge base.
In my world, the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” approach is insufficient. The world in which we live and conduct our business is changing dramatically and continually.
No surprise here, but that change requires…no, demands…that we have at our fingertips the latest communication methods, tools, and techniques. And that demands that we be constantly seeking out the newest information…testing ourselves by delving into the new and the unfamiliar to see how it can be used to our advantage.
Which is an excuse for me to circle back to Mandarin Chinese. Why am I doing this?
Because it hit me while I was on vacation during the summer in Taiwan that I’ve been going there for more than 30 years…and barely know enough words to order a cup of coffee.
Then, to cap it, I made a new friend while there and “forced” him and his wife, along with my own wife, to converse throughout a roughly two-hour dinner in my native English. It worked fine as both of them earned their master’s degrees from universities in the United States. And, for Margaret (my wife), English is just one of about a half-dozen languages in which she comfortably converses.
The reality finally sank in that, if I truly do want to spend greater amounts of time in Taiwan…and make new friends in the process, I have to shake myself out of my comfortable shell and test myself…test both my ability to learn a new language and my commitment to that learning.
We’ve just started the course, so it’s too early to tell. But I pride myself on my professionalism and my commitment to learning. It will be a successful endeavor.
“Leadership and learning are indispensible to each other.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Remarks prepared for delivery at the Trade Mart in Dallas [November 22, 1963])