I have a funny (funny as in slightly different, not funny ha-ha) attitude towards professional recognition.
I believe that recognition comes when you do the right things. Work hard to improve your craft, be a continual learner, be committed to your organization and leadership, make your team shine - these things lead to the right kind of recognition. At least that's been true in my experience.
So it was a difficult thing for me to admit to myself that I hoped to become a Fellow in my industry's professional organization. Part of the Fellowship process is to complete a detailed application, illustrating the reasons you are qualified in a variety of categories.
Ack! Applying for Fellowship meant I'd have to toot my own horn, laud my accomplishments - even worse, brag on myself a bit.
And believe me, it was awkward - horribly, terribly so. Even worse was having to ask a group of individuals to write testimonial letters lauding my accomplishments.
I hated it.
But I did it, because I wanted to know if I had what it took to be a Fellow.
So after many angst-filled hours of writing, calling, emailing, revising, designing and revising some more, I sent this off to our national organization:
The interesting part of the application process was in the awkwardness. Sometimes when you avoid singing the "Aren't I great" song, you overlook what you actually have accomplished.
And even more surprising were the things that I learned from reading my recommendation letters. To me, helping others is what you do. I'm not about winning at all costs, hording information and crawling to the top at the expense of others. If I can help you win, then we all win. If I know and can help you learn, we're all better.
It's called being a professional.
But apparently that isn't normal - or at least it's unusual enough that I didn't realize how others perceived what I do and how I do things.
The 10 letters I sourced for my application are some of the most meaningful things I know count among my professional possessions. I learned a great deal about myself by looking through other's eyes.
However, an application process does mean that it continues beyond sending a packet off. For me, that meant six weeks of going on with my life, not thinking much about my application until I started hearing that individuals were receiving phone calls.
Then, one day two weeks ago, I received a phone call. I hid in a small room and cried a little. And my team sent me flowers. My boss sent an email to our firm's leadership and I received congratulatory emails back (another awkward moment). I cried some more.
Last week, a little packet arrived for me from our national organization.
Inside was my official Fellows notification letter and pin:
Despite the awkwardness, this was a journey worth taking.
(Coming soon...more on being a professional. I've been thinking about it lately.)