The Impact of CDAs
By Safiya Edwards
Many people do not realize how vital the symbiotic relationship is between the state Career Development Associations (CDAs) and the National Career Development Association (NCDA). It is as if the NCDA is the tree trunk of a mighty oak and the chartered CDAs are its many branches – if the trunk is not sound, the branches cannot survive, and the trunk will not thrive without healthy, leafy, and ever growing branches.
CDAs benefit from NCDA’s brand as the premier global career development association and all that that entails, including professional development, publications, standards, credentialing, and advocacy. NCDA benefits from the fact that CDAs promote broader awareness of and interest in NCDA. CDAs also help to promulgate NCDA’s vision “for all people to attain fulfilling career and life goals” by supporting members from an array of organizations, including corporate outplacement, talent development and mobility, higher education, K-12 schools, workforce development, public and private agencies, non-profit organizations, private practices, and more. The mutual support that state CDAs can extend to each other further magnifies the synergy between CDAs and NCDA. This article aims to share best practices from one CDA so that others may grow their branches.
Learning from Each Other
The Pennsylvania Career Development Association (PACDA) became chartered in 2019. According to the PACDA bylaws, the “purpose of PACDA shall be to offer high quality, accessible professional development and networking opportunities to career services practitioners throughout the state.” PACDA recognizes that members positively influence not only the individuals they serve, but also the families, employers, and community to which those individuals belong. By focusing on the value we bring to members and growing our membership, we know that we can increase the portion of the population that benefits from our members’ services.
We share the following practices in the hopes that other CDAs may also magnify their CDA’s value as a “branch” on the NCDA “tree”.
The first best practice is to leverage member participation to drive the association's strategies. PACDA has a Vice President for Volunteer Engagement. Every new member receives a personalized welcome to the CDA and an invitation to share their skills and interests.
- 30% of PACDA members are actively participating in the association, either on one of our committees or on a special project.
- We include a question about volunteering as part of the online registration for every event.
Maintaining and growing membership is a key component for any nonprofit and PACDA is no exception.
- About every 18 months, our Membership Committee sends a survey to everyone on our mailing list, both members and nonmembers, to elicit feedback about the organization and to prioritize program offerings.
- The Committee is working with a SCORE Advisor to develop a strategic marketing plan to drive increased membership.
- Our membership team is actively pursuing organizational memberships that will enable us to penetrate more of our potential market.
Accessibility, variety, forward-thinking, organized, and flexible are the hallmarks of successful programming. When the pandemic forced the cancellation of PACDA’s first annual symposium, we quickly pivoted to virtual monthly offerings. In order to ensure wide access to these webinars, PACDA members pay an affordable event registration fee (usually $10 for webinars). We leverage our networks to recruit speakers and sometimes cold call experts on the topics we want to cover. New members have the ability to access past event archives ( there are over 12 video recordings available).
Our programs include one to four unpaid speakers and offer multiple benefits to our members:
- Knowledge building, including NCDA recertification credits, with 17 CEUs offered in 2021 and 9.5 CEUs offered in 2020
- Professional relationship development with attendees across the state and with our speakers
- Speaking and reputation-building opportunities, as Event Liaisons and as Presenters (we limit any speaker to one presentation within a calendar year)
We have developed templates and checklists to streamline event planning. We also keep a running list of potential speakers and try to provide a balance between professional development offerings and networking opportunities:
- Networking events are both organization-wide and for specialized practitioner populations, e.g., K-12, Higher Ed, Workforce Development, and Private Practice/Outplacement.
- Knowledge building events fall within four categories: Labor Market Issues, Job Search Best Practices, Resources for Coaches, and Strategies for Targeted Client Support (e.g., Neurodiverse, Technology Professionals, and Returning Citizens).
An active communications team should use a multi-pronged approach to publicize the CDA and its offerings, including multiple email outreaches and social media. Additionally, a publication for members can support the mission.
- Social media outlets for PACDA are mostly LinkedIn and Facebook. On LinkedIn, we have both a PACDA group page and a PACDA organization page where we post career services-related articles in addition to event notices. We have planned expansions to YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.
- PACDA publishes a quarterly e-newsletter and maintain its archives on our website.
We are extremely fortunate to have skilled Technology volunteers who manage our website, event registrations, event recordings, membership survey, and contact database. These individuals enable us to seamlessly and successfully offer a robust calendar of events.
Our Partnership Committee builds alliances with organizations whose fields and learning opportunities intersect with ours. We exchange event information with NCDA and the CDAs in our region. We also cross-post events, enjoy discounted registration with eight diverse organizations, and continue to explore affiliations with other related entities in our region.
We have a unique approach to governance that was pioneered by the Immediate Past President, Kim Neubauer. We hold a monthly Leadership Collaboration Meeting that includes our Committee Chairs and all volunteers are encouraged to attend. The schedule is published for the entire year to support representation from every committee at each meeting. PACDA also has an Executive Board that meets twice a year to address major decisions.
Impacting Many Careers
State CDAs grow “tree branches” by giving members opportunities to participate and lead as well as a voice in the development and implementation of strategic plans. All of this enables active career development professionals to have a broader and more profound impact on the careers of the individuals they serve as well as their families, employers, and communities. Ultimately, that allows NCDA (“the tree trunk”) to grow stronger.
Safiya Edwards, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, MBA, is President of the Pennsylvania Career Development Association (PACDA). PACDA won the NCDA award for Outstanding Emerging State Division in 2020. www.thepacda.org. In her portfolio career, Safiya is affiliated with several career transition firms in addition to her private practice. She can be reached at email@example.com.