The Advocacy Imperative Goes On
By Amy Mazur
Almost a year ago, in keeping with the 2008 NCDA conference theme " Public Policy and Advocacy" and as part of our Leadership Academy II Project "The Advocacy Imperative" presented at the NCDA Global Conference in Washington, DC, Erin Jennings and I submitted an article to Career Convergence entitled, "Career Counselor as Advocate for and with Clients". We also offered a workshop with fellow NCDA colleagues Susan Loffredo and Kendall Dudley, entitled "Advocating for Workplace Change: Boston Career Development Professionals in Action".
While a year has come and gone, and as we are all excitedly preparing for the annual conference in St. Louis, we find the advocacy work we do is no less imperative. With everything occurring in the economy and in the world today, perhaps this work is even more important.
I want to share some ongoing advocacy work continuing with a small but very committed group of career development professionals in Boston, MA. Voices for Workplace Change: Career Counselors Advocating for Workers has been meeting regularly to share stories of some of the seemingly unstoppable forces in the workplace impacting our work and our clients so remarkably. These impacts prompted action on the part of the group to actively integrate advocacy into our career development work. We took some steps to not only increase advocacy competencies, but to also enable us to better serve our clients.
Although clients play a role regarding messages, beliefs, and attitudes concerning a career, the question of what forces have shaped those messages, beliefs and attitudes has to be asked. We assist clients in understanding how not only individual issues, but current systems may limit them in their quest for vocational satisfaction. Such systems might include the healthcare system, where acquiring health insurance is difficult and expensive, keeping clients stuck in jobs for the health insurance, or the educational system, where access to options for low-income individuals make it difficult to obtain family-sustaining jobs. Organized labor, once a powerful voice for workers, now represents less than 10% of the workforce, and the wage system often does not provide economic self-sufficiency.
What has Voices for Workplace Change (VWC) done? Our work has consisted of three primary areas: affiliation, building our credibility (training/education), and building partnerships.
Because we are a small group, we find that we do not want to spend time reinventing organizational systems already in existence thereby expediting communication and efficiency. We are exploring an affiliation with Counselors for Social Justice to see if we can become the Massachusetts chapter of that esteemed ACA division.
Building Our Credibility
VWC sees our own members' training and education as a way we can build our credibility and voice in the advocacy world. Voices for Workplace Change members are all experienced and credentialed in the career development profession. However, we lack some of the more fundamental advocacy competencies to prepare us for building partnerships and making changes. An effort to develop our skills is now under way as we partner this fall with The Massachusetts Workforce Alliance (massworkforcealliance.org). Using MWA's Know & Go training model will help career development professionals understand the current system and how their particular expertise is vital to our role in the creation of good public policy.
Of course, the most fulfilling part of our work is the actual advocacy we are able to do with our partnership-building efforts. VWC recently partnered with Crittenton Women's Union, a Boston-based non-profit organization that promotes women's economic independence and self-sufficiency (www.liveworkthrive.org). This partnership will help them with grass-roots advocacy efforts (i.e. joining coalitions, writing letters, sending e-alerts, attending lobby days and testifying at hearings) on issues related to paid sick leave, adult basic education and workforce development legislation. It will also use our career development expertise in the training of their staff who have not benefited from systems set up in our Commonwealth.
Voices for Workplace Change is enthusiastic about all the collaborative efforts we are actively engaging, both on the individual and the organizational level. We are also very fortunate to have the expertise and membership of local and well-respected NCDA members Dr. David Blustein and Dr. Barry Chung. They have been very instrumental in helping us to shape our vision and continue on the advocacy journey.
Whether our advocacy efforts are occurring on the local level, as Voices for Workplace Change is demonstrating or on the national level with the great work of NCDA advocacy initiatives, as responsible NCDA Association members, professionals, or citizens, we serve those who have not benefited from all that is available and possible to attain. We have the responsibility as a community of career development professionals to learn about and work to change the systems, addressing the larger issues that prevent our clients from moving forward on their vocational paths. That is the advocacy imperative in action.
Amy Mazur, MCDP, NCC, is a Career Development Specialist and Counselor Educator who has been working in the field for over 20 years, and who assists individuals to begin, renew and advance their careers. Prior to her work in private practice, Amy was a Career Counselor and Assistant Director of Career Services at the Women's Educational & Industrial Union. In addition to individual and group work at the Union, she created and developed the Professional Development Seminars Series for career development professionals. Aside from coordinating the current seminar series through the Career Counselor's Consortium, Amy trains and mentors new Career Counselors locally, regionally and nationally. As adjunct faculty at Lesley University's Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, she teaches Vocational Development & Career Counseling. Amy also provides Career Counseling for the Career Moves division of Jewish Vocational Service, and Boston Career Link, a One-Stop Career Center in Boston, MA.
Amy received her Master's of Education from Harvard University in Counseling and Consulting Psychology, and her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan. She is a National Board Certified Counselor (NBCC) and is a member of the National Career Development Association (NCDA), where she serves on the Government Relations Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com