Professionalism: Connecting the Dots

  • Published
  • By Maj. William Fischer
  • 22nd Mission Support Squadron commander
Surveys continue to tell us that the military ranks at the top of what people consider "trusted professionals." We are also members of the "profession of arms." So what does the word professional mean? What does it mean when someone says, "Be a professional?"

Some think of professionalism as a laundry list of things we should do: keep your uniform neat, be on-time, knowing your Air Force Instructions, following your checklists. Other times, we think of things to avoid: don't drink and drive, don't bust your suspenses. However, professionalism is not a list, it is a standard of conduct, an attitude, a state of mind. It is an internal compass that guides every action you take. Professionalism is a continuous effort to make our Air Force better. The question is, are you contributing to our professionalism, or are you just watching others make our Air Force better?

It's not always easy being a professional. For our military to succeed, you must go beyond your work shift, getting your paycheck and following your checklists. A professional possesses a skill set that others are unwilling or unable to obtain and put into practice. It's dedication - doing the right thing, every time. Remember, it's easy to do the right thing when everything is going your way. The difference is that professionals do the right thing even when it's not good or comfortable for them. Professionals are able to make the right decision with less than complete information and balance competing interests - they can connect the dots. Connecting the dots is the ability to bring ambiguity into focus and make the picture clear - a way ahead that gets the mission done.

We all know a professional when we see it. They're the person that always seems to know what's going on. It's the ability to see the train wreck coming and make plans to prevent it. A professional is the person that everyone looks to. They're the person that can move beyond the checklists and AFIs and get the mission done safely and effectively. They seem to know things others don't - they can connect the dots.

With tight budgets, downsizing and deployments on the rise, the Air Force doesn't just need you to give 100 percent, it needs you to be a professional. It's professionalism that will make the difference in the long war. It's professionalism that makes the difference between success and failure. If everyone is a true professional, no one can stand against us. We'll win not because of technology, or because we have more money, but how we apply it. That's professionalism and that's connecting the dots.

If you are a true professional, you'll find that everything will take care of itself because you're always doing the right thing. You're also taking care of every detail. If someone has ever told you, "don't sweat the details," that's really bad advice. Professionals pay attention to the details and it's what separates them from everyone else. Your professionalism will allow you to balance competing interests to get the mission done safely. And if you can connect the dots, you'll find the picture of a great career develop.