Introduction to Professional Communities
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What is a Professional Community?

A professional community is a group of people who share a basic set of values and assumptions and have very specific ways of communicating those shared goals. While this definition may sound complex, it really is not. Indeed, most of you are already participating in a multitude of professional communities on a daily basis and don’t even realize it. Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

All of you have likely attended some meetings within The Church of Jesus Christ. If you are a convert or can think back to when you were a child with more limited knowledge about the Church and its doctrine, you can probably recall being confused by the words and language being used.

You likely weren’t used to the idea of a testimony meeting where even young children were allowed to approach the pulpit and speak to the congregation. You likely didn’t realize that most people bearing their testimonies were following a series of basic conventions (in other words, stating that the Church is true, that they have faith and a testimony in the prophets and scriptures, as well as a sure witness of their Savior and Heavenly Father’s love for them).

At church meetings, you also likely heard certain words that were unfamiliar to you such as MTC (Missionary Training Center), the Restoration, FHE (Family Home Evening), the Articles of Faith, Relief Society, and the Word of Wisdom.

Based on the definition above and the descriptors listed here, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could easily be considered its own professional community. It has a basic set of values and very specific ways (and even words) to communicate those shared goals and values.

BYU-Pathway Worldwide

BYU-Pathway is another professional community that you are all becoming familiar with and growing into.

For a moment, think back to your first term within this program. How foreign did the experience feel to you? How challenging was it for you to learn how to navigate through the lesson modules and learn how to use programs such as Microsoft Word and even video recording mechanisms? What about acquainting yourself with the lesson routines, assignments, and due dates? Was that difficult as well?

Think also of the jargon (Pathway-specific words and ideas) that you had to learn like stewardship, Learning Model, disciple leaders, ponder and prove, gatherings, and PathwayConnect.

Wouldn’t you say that the BYU-Pathway Worldwide organization has a shared set of values and very distinct means of communicating about those goals and values? Beyond just having a distinct jargon, also think about the unique communication methods used by the organization (for example, videos, email, I-Learn, Facebook, etc.).

Ponder and Record

  • What methods of communication were you already competent in before joining this professional community as a BYU-Pathway Worldwide student?
  • Which ones were unfamiliar to you, and how did you come to learn how to use them?

Social Media

Various social media forums could also be considered professional communities. All of them have varying mechanisms for communication and each social media organization has clear objectives and goals for its users. While these forums may be part of a larger professional community of “social media,” think for a moment about how each of these forums could also be its own professional community.

To do this, start by looking at the distinct differences between the varying platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Ponder and Record

  • What is different about these four forums?
  • What differences are there in posting capabilities?
  • Are there things like word limits, additional categories, public vs. personal messaging options, or guiding questions for users? What does that say about how each social media platform’s professional community might differ?
  • What words and phrases are unique to social media users? Are those same words and phrases acceptable on all four platforms? Why or why not?

Your Workplace

Whether you are currently employed or have been in the past, think for a moment about the professional community of your workplace. What things does that company value? What goals does your company have, and how are those shared goals communicated to all employees at the company? Do employees tend to communicate in person or via email, fax machines, text, Microsoft Teams, or even PowerPoint presentation? In what situation or environment is each method of communication preferred and used?

What about the jargon of your workplace? What words, titles, phrases, or acronyms are used that might be unfamiliar to an outsider or new employee of the company?

Asking and answering these questions as you travel through varying professional communities throughout your day will enable you to begin to identify what sets each community apart and how you might better fit into each one.

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