Monday, August 21, 2017

Own Your Professional Development

Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation
2017 VRPS Senior Resource Group Chair-Elect

A passive approach to professional growth will leave you by the wayside.”  Tom Peters

We all know that doing a good job and meeting your key work expectations is fundamental to succeeding in your position. But if your professional goals include moving into position with more responsibility (and yes, more money) then you are going to have to put in more effort.  Registering for training programs at work is a good start.  It might also mean getting a professional certification. It all depends on the industry in which you work.   

Essentially, professional certifications can give you a competitive edge and complements your professional experience.  It is a way to show your colleagues and hiring managers that you are serious about working with the latest knowledge and tools that are considered gold standards in that particular industry.  Certainly, a college or post graduate degree indicates your mastery of knowledge but in this fast paced society, information changes continuously and if an industry doesn’t keep up it perishes.  So do the professionals who work in it.

However, you want to do your homework before investing the time and expense. Look at the credentials people have in the positions you aspire to attain.  Are they graduate degrees? Do they belong to a professional association? Do they also have professional certifications?  If the answer is yes to any of these, then consider following their lead.

Do you currently have a mentor? A mentor is a professional that inspires you to obtain more education and training to become more. Consider following this recommendation by joining the Virginia Recreation and Park Society and obtaining your Professional Certification (CPRP).   Membership is also a great way to find a mentor.

In the field of Parks and Recreation a certification you will see frequently is called the Certified Parks and Recreation Professional. There are a variety of paths a person can take to qualify for the exam. According the National Parks and Recreation Association website the following criteria qualify a person to take the CPRP exam:

*Have received, or are set to receive, a Bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT) OR

*Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher from any institution in recreation, park resources, or leisure services, and also have no less than 1 year of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a major other than recreation, park resources, or leisure services, and also have no less than 3 years of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have an Associate's degree and have 4 years of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have a high school degree or equivalent, and have 5 years of full-time experience in the field. Source:

There are many paths toward certification.  One important aspect to note is that a candidate does need to have field experience or the educational background before they can take the certifying exam.  That aspect alone shows that this type of certification is really about producing mastery in the field.  Mastery in any field is conducive to professional development.

Another feature of the CPRP certification is that in order to maintain that status, a person needs to acquire continuing education units (CEUs). That’s pivotal. Knowledge is not static and good knowledge changes to become more significant.  Therefore, any association with a strong commitment to research and the sharing of evidence based information is worth joining.  If there are post-secondary programs related to the certification, then you are looking at a certification program that is based on research and academic inquiry.  There should also be ample opportunities for professional to obtain those CEUs through industry related conferences

The CPRP exam guide is very detailed and user friendly.  Each area of knowledge is clearly explained with relevant examples.  The first chapter talks about the pivotal role communication plays in the field.  Relationships with customers, constituents and colleagues thrive when the communication is clear, consistent and accurate. This helps bolster support for programs and services that benefit the public.  In-house, good communication fosters team work, professionalism and camaraderie. It also covers other key categories of the CPRP certification process such as finance, human resources, operations, and programming. 

Now how does this relate specifically to working with seniors?  Well, the answer is- to a great extent!  For anyone who attended the 2016 SRG conference in Virginia Beach, there was consensus among the participants that recreation programs for seniors are perceived to be less of a priority than programs for teens or sports leagues.  However, as the keynote speaker Dr. Denise Scruggs reminded us; we need to be the champions for our programs and communicate their vital contributions to the community.  This can be done by producing competent data analysis and then effectively communicating that information to the public, co-workers and ultimately the decision makers within the organization.  When you go to advocate for your senior programs, you will have more success if you present your case within the framework recreation and park professionals will understand.  

Obtaining the designation of a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional shows others in the field that you understand the overall goals of the industry. Empowered professionals take advantage of every opportunity to improve their skills and enhance their knowledge.   Becoming a CPRP will give you the skills to connect senior programs to the parks and recreation field at large, within your jurisdiction and within your own senior or community center.  How does a parks and recreation certification fit within your career plan?  How do you own your professional development?  Let us know.

SRG Board
Karen Brutsche
Janice Myrick
Cheryl Wheeler
Hope Lomax-Jones
June Snead