Encouraging Advocacy: From the beginning of the career process to the negotiation table

By Erin Perdue

In the last two years, my Division of Student Affairs has created the Women in Student Affairs (WISA) group on campus for graduate students and professionals in our field. Recently, I had an epiphany that came directly from the conversations that I have on a daily basis with some of these fantastic women of Ohio University WISA.


My brain was swimming after a presentation for our WISA group called the $tart$mart Salary Negotiation Workshop, an interactive workshop designed to give college women the confidence and skills they need to earn fair compensation. I left that presentation with a wealth of knowledge and a numb brain. With my new desire to measure my own personal “worth” and understand the history I have so often denied being a part of (as a woman), I ran back to my office and did some serious self reflection and research on where we are and where we have come as women in the United States.


Interestingly enough, I also came back to my office with an email from NCDA regarding the 100th Anniversary year and the Global Career Development Conference, which I planned to attend for the first time. You know that point when everything that happens to you in one day all seems to connect in a weird way and make sense? Well, that happened the second I read the title of the conference: “Celebrating 100 Years of Career Development: Creating Hope, Social Justice and Legacy.” Mind immediately blown.


Relating to Our History


It was only 100 years ago this past March that the Women’s Suffrage Parade crowded Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., only two days before the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. This event sparked a spirit of protest for women in the United States to demand the right to vote and be considered equal citizens. Most recently, in 2009, President Barrack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gives women the right, at any time, to seek restitution through the court system if they find they are underpaid compared to their male colleagues with similar responsibilities and experience.


As a career development professional, and a woman, it is sometimes easy for me to forget that it wasn’t that long ago that I would not have had the opportunities I have now, or the access to even do what I am doing today. The historical activism of our predecessors should be revered and recognized, even with the 100 years of strenuous strides they have made to get us this far. As a part of this remembrance, we should be encouraging all of our students, regardless of gender or race, to acknowledge their ability and know that they have a right to ask for fair compensation. The word “negotiation” is part of our everyday workforce language, but we should be more intentional with discussing this part of the career development process with our students.


Our Call to Encourage


Though students may not need to know the details of our history, it is important for us to recognize the importance of that history and encourage them to play active roles in their own advocacy when the job offer is on the table. But how do we do this?


We should encourage our students to:


  • Be patient when that job offer comes, and ask for time to think before accepting the offer right away
  • Be confident in their skills, talents and strengths they are bringing to a company, not just what the company can do for them
  • Think beyond the “salary number” and consider the benefits that come with that salary
  • Never be afraid to ask if there is room for negotiation
  • Be okay with saying “no”.


Rarely a day goes by that I don’t I tell my students to make their voice heard or not be afraid to brag about their accomplishments, whether that be through a cover letter, resume or even during an interview. It’s important that we, as professionals, not only give our students the encouragement and knowledge to acquire that position they so desperately long for, but also remind them that it doesn’t end with that job offer letter. They have the right and duty to advocate for what they deserve, which has not always been the case for those who came before us.


One of my favorite professors once said that we are born into history; it didn’t begin with you, but has been alive for generations. With 100 years behind NCDA, and many more to go, my hope is that our history continues to repeat itself, if only to be improved by the future generations. I am positive that we can make a difference for those we advise, coach, mentor, guide, and that they will be advocates for themselves through the entire career development process if we are willing to encourage and support them from beginning to end.





Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond. Lilly M. Ledbetter - Lanier Scott Isom - Crown Archetype – 2012


"The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act." Lilly Ledbetter. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.


"What Is A $tart$mart Workshop." What Is A $tart$mart Workshop. The WAGE Project, Inc., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2013. Retrieved from  http://www.wageproject.org/files/WhatIs$tart$martWorkshop.php


"100 Years Ago, The 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade." The Atlantic. N.p., 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. Retrieved from  http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/03/100-years-ago-the-1913-womens-suffrage-parade/100465/




Erin PerdueErin Perdue is the Assistant Director for Leadership at Ohio University’s Career and Leadership Development Center. Upon completion of her undergraduate education degree, she went on to pursue her passion for working with college students at Marshall University where she received a Master of Arts in Counseling. She has worked in several areas within the Division of Student Affairs at Ohio University including Residential Housing, the Office of the Dean of Students, and currently the CLDC.  As a local Athens, Ohio community member, Erin also serves on the Board of Directors for the Athens County Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem Program. Erin can be reached at perduee@ohio.edu.

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1 Comment

Hanna DeBruhl   on Tuesday 06/16/2015 at 11:39 AM

Great Insight! Definitely a topic I discuss often with my students- the importance of being their best advocate. Sometimes we focus on getting a job, that we don't look at what comes after that which is just as important! Thanks for sharing!

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