Surveyors: Stand up and be heard
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
This article first appeared in The American Surveyor.
One of the best ways for an organization to advance is to have a unified voice, one that represents a broad spectrum of interests, common to all members.
The medical profession learned this a long time ago with the universal adoption of the Hippocratic Oath. In the United States, this concept evolved into the canons of the American Medical Association, commonly known as the AMA.
Along a similar vein, college alumni do a good job of earning national recognition. Notre Dame, Harvard, Yale and Berkeley all come to mind. As soon as you hear the name of any one of these universities, most people identify with the school and, if you are lucky enough to be a graduate, your status is carried with considerable pride.
If you tell people you are a graduate of Harvard, they look at you differently. Although Berkeley may be in California, graduates come from every state in the union, and to be an alum from Berkeley is a big thing. If you are seeking work in Michigan and you tell your prospective employer you are a Berkeley graduate, you're halfway through the door.
Why is it then that when you tell people you are a land surveyor, they look at you cross-eyed and ask, "What do you do?" "Are you one of those persons who stands out in the middle of the street looking through one of those thingamajigs?" My favorite is, "My wife's cousin is a landscaper."
Why do we have such a bad public relations problem, and why don't people know who we are and what we do? More importantly, who is to blame, and does anyone want to fix it?
Part of the problem is the profession itself. Many land surveyors operate in remote places, often alone. Many surveyors prefer the romantic lifestyle of the pioneer in the wilderness, taming the land and charting new trails — exploring where no one has gone before. And now with the advent of robotics, GPS and modern technologies, much of what we do has been replaced.
What this means is if you want to survive, you need to change.
Whenever I discuss this problem with other land surveyors, many respond with the same litany of excuses why they don't have enough time to do anything about it. It's usually "I'm too busy," "I don't know how to do that stuff," "There's a hole in my glove" or "The check's in the mail."
Those excuses no longer work; we are out of time.
Fortunately, there is a way for land surveyors to advance their interests while educating the public, gaining respect and earning more money. All you have to do is join your local surveying association and become a member of the National Society of Professional Surveyors. At NSPS, there are members actively promoting the surveying profession in many positive ways, doing so with a national face and national representation.
The writing is on the wall; land surveying is at a critical juncture. Automation and satellites are rapidly replacing the facets of surveying primarily associated with measurement and positioning. For those with vision, they know there is much more to land surveying than catching coordinates and competing with satellites to see who is faster and more efficient.
We must move forward with a single voice, and the way we do that is by adopting a national image that best represents the profession. At a national level, we must adopt coast-to-coast standards that everyone is willing to embrace.
If we are to elevate our stature in the community, it must start with you. If we don't save the profession, who will?
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