The Lost Avenue of Rotary
Everyone knows we have Five Avenues of Service.  Most of us are pretty clear about what they entail, at least when it comes to Club Service, Youth Service, Community Service, and International Service. The names are sort of self explanatory.  Then there is that other one we aren’t all that sure about….what exactly are we supposed to do with Vocational Service and why is it even an Avenue of Service?  It’s the only Avenue of Service that shares its name with a Rotary theme month…but why?  Exactly what is so important about our vocations anyway to make RI establish a special month just for that?  Turns out Vocational Service is probably the most fundamental of our Avenues of Service, and quite possibly the least understood.  It was one of the cornerstones on which Rotary was founded and is an essential part of everything we do from major projects, to the weekly meeting, to the way we conduct our day to day lives.  
At some point, probably when you received your initial informational package upon joining Rotary, you were given a certificate titled “The Object of Rotary.”  Hopefully you know exactly where it is and are familiar with it, but if not, here is a quick review because it is an essential part of the answer to the above questions.
The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:
FIRST. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
SECOND. High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
THIRD. The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
FOURTH. The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.
It is the second object that concerns us here.  The Object of Rotary is a philosophical statement of the purpose of Rotary and our responsibilities as Rotarians. The concept of Vocational Service is deeply rooted in the Second Object, which calls on us to “encourage and foster”:
  • High ethical standards in business and professions
  • The recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations
  • The dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society.
The fact is you are probably traveling the avenue of Vocational Service everyday by practicing your profession with integrity and inspiring others to behave ethically through your own words and actions.  If you weren’t doing these things, you probably wouldn’t be in Rotary at all for it is this single Avenue of Service that strikes at the very essence of Rotary and sets it apart from other service organizations.
When you were invited to join Rotary it was, in all likelihood, because your sponsor saw you as a respected member of the community and of your professional field – what we in Rotary refer to as, your classification.  That’s why your name tag has a classification on it.  The structure of Rotary requires that each club is comprised of a cross section of the business population to ensure diversity in experience and perspective.  Classifications and Vocational Service are flip sides of the same coin! 
Okay, so we know why Vocational Service is important now, but other than doing our jobs with integrity and ethical behavior, what do we do with this Avenue?  How do we give it the respect it truly deserves?  It’s easier than you think:
  • Do a craft talk!  Yes we want to know about your personal life too, but don’t leave out your occupational details. That’s what craft talks are really all about - your craft.
  • You say “no way….I couldn’t possibly talk in front of all those people at a meeting.”  Consider instead, hosting a meeting at your place of business and organizing a tour of your workplace where you are in your comfort zone and can show the rest of the club exactly what you do.  The name “Rotary” originated with the practice of rotating meeting sites among members’ places of business.  That tradition remains an excellent way for Rotarians to share their vocations with their club.
  • Join a Rotary Fellowship that is related to your profession.There are fellowships for doctors, lawyers, writers, canoeing, police, scouting…the list goes on and on.  Through a fellowship you can celebrate your vocation in a fun way with like minded people on an international basis.  Learn more about the available fellowships by clicking on the logo to the right.
  •   Volunteer for a service project that uses your vocational skills.  Maybe you are trained in some branch of science or medicine, are handy with tools or mechanical things, know how to start a business, have expertise managing finances, or can influence others through public speaking or writing. Use your unique set of talents to make a difference in your community.
  • Participate in career day at a local school.  Share your vocational experience with the leaders of tomorrow.
As a club we have even more opportunities available.  Vocational Service has at its core the guiding principles of integrity and ethical business practices that are relayed to us through the Four Way Test and the Rotary Code of Conduct.  As a club we can:
  • Organize a workshop on ethics in the workplace and invite local non-Rotarian business leaders to attend to help participants build practical problem-solving skills and explore how to deal with examples of ethical dilemmas.
  • Set aside one meeting each year to honor businesses or professionals who have been nominated by club members as having demonstrated high ethical standards in their treatment of employees, customers, and the communities in which they work.  Maybe an amazing auto mechanic who is honest and trustworthy.  Perhaps the local UPS delivery man is the best thing since sliced bread.  Or a local business owner has gone out of their way to help their employees.
  • Have an annual Police Officer of the Year and/or Teacher of the Year Award to honor a deserving person for outstanding service to the community.
  • Sponsor an essay contest for young people on the theme “What The Four-Way Test means to me.”   It’s an effective way to engage young people with the concepts of ethics and integrity.
  • Sponsor a Job Shadow Day for local kids.
So you see, Vocational Service is not the ugly, fruitless stepchild we may have thought.  It does all the hard work behind the scenes while the other Avenues of Service receive all the attention.  It is Cinderella after midnight and we are the handsome prince left dazed and confused, holding her glass slipper.  All we really have to do is slip it on her waiting foot and magical things will happen through the power of Rotary.  October is Vocational Service Month – share your vocation with pride.