Around this time last year I discovered a great opportunity for professional development. I was looking for ways to earn discounts to professional conferences to keep costs down for the office and stumbled across the NCDA Leadership Academy. I had no idea that this opportunity to attend NCDA's national conference and save some money would also offer the kind of interactive professional development that could engage me in national and state leadership.
The application process was detailed and required me to reflect on leadership roles I have had. I am a young professional and was unsure that I was what NCDA was looking for, but I was wrong. They selected me and were happy to have my perspective represented in the diverse academy. So, if you think you are interested in this opportunity but are shy about what you have to offer, I am here to tell you to apply! You may be just what NCDA needs.
Once selected, I attended the NCDA conference in Seattle in July 2007 and was introduced to the NCDA Board and the 2006-07 Leadership Academy class members as well as my fellow 2007-08 classmates. This networking opportunity in and of itself was invaluable. We spent 1.5 days leading up to the conference in leadership training including a workshop by Marie Wakefield, Past-President of the American Counseling Association who inspired us in our leadership efforts.
One commitment that I made as a Leadership Academy participant is to design and complete an Action Learning Project. Each moment of the training led me to more fully consider what project I could develop. I had not come close to what I wanted to put my energies toward for my project when NCDA President Darrell Luzzo spoke about the need for our voice to be heard when policy makers are crafting these programs that shape the world we live in and affect our clients so directly. It was just the kind of talk that got my wheels turning. In another session, we were encouraged to work with other members of our class on a project. I was blessed to connect with Amy Mazur and we shared a passion for inspiring fellow career professionals to take action on behalf of our clients through public policy advocacy on the local, state or national level. Thus our project: 'The Advocacy Imperative' was born. We've decided to work with the NCDA Government Relations Committee and our Board Liaison, Pat Schwallie-Giddis, to impact the membership of NCDA to take action on issues impacting our clients in public policy on the local, state, and national levels in some way. Each of us as career development professionals has so much to offer to these debates and our project will hopefully result in more activity on the part of NCDA members.
So far, as a result of my participation in the NCDA Leadership Academy, I've been elected President of the New York Career Development Association and am advocating for this organization's revitalization on the state level. I am writing this article to inspire you to take action in your own career path even if you choose another way to get involved. Amy and I are continuing to prepare a presentation for the 2008 national Conference where we hope to present a speaker who can guide us on how to be effective advocates. Our project continues to develop as we do and so too has my experience to date with the NCDA Leadership Academy. I hope this article and my story inspire action and empowerment in your life. I look forward to meeting you at the 2008 conference and hopefully as a member of the 2008-09 Leadership Academy.
Erin E. Jennings, MS, NCC, is a Career Counselor and the Peer Assistant Program Coordinator at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Prior to working at Binghamton University, Erin acted as the Interim Director of Career Services and prior as the Assistant Director of Career Services at Penn State Altoona. Leading up to her career counseling days, Erin worked in the Residence Life field for seven years at The University of Scranton, New York University and Moravian College. Her professional affiliations include: President of the NY Career Development Association and Member of NCDA, MACCA, SUNY CDO, NYCA and ACA. Erin completed her Master of Science degree in Community Counseling at The University of Scranton and studied classical and jazz voice as she obtained her Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education at Moravian College. Erin can be reached at Binghamton University's Career Development Center PO Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902, 607-777-2400, email@example.com, http://cdc.binghamton.edu/