Exploring the Usage of the Term ‘Professional’ in New Zealand Work Contexts

Author: Edgar Burns, Eastern Institute of Technology

Abstract: New ways the term ‘professional’ is used in everyday commerce depart from conventional usage by academics and established professions. Ten months of household newspapers, brochures, newsletter and magazine materials were examined (advertisements, Editorials, feature articles, news items) using discourse analysis to identify themes in the contemporary popular usage of the term ‘professional’ in relation to business. Findings indicate (1) a wide variety of occupations today claim ‘professions’ status; (2) the term ‘professional manager’ is a significant amalgamation; (3) small businesses invoke the idea of professionalism; (4) staff recruitment uses selective discourses of professionalism; (5) both top and bottom ends of white-collar work appeal to ‘professional’ ideals; (6) there is no self-consciousness in making claims to be ‘professional’. The discussion considers the need to comprehend this evidence by outlining the personal/professional ethic in commercial life. It also considers how the use of ‘professional’ and related terms has changed from meaning independence, to sometimes meaning compliance with organisational rules, being used as a mechanism of control.