Last week I attended the National Career Development Association (NCDA) annual conference. It was a valuable learning experience that allowed me to tap into current big ideas in the career industry. Here are my reflections as a first-time attendee of the conference:
- The need to connect: Conferences are about much more than learning. There is a “tribal” element to joining a large group of like-minded peers who want to better themselves. The NCDA conference delivered in that regard, and I took full advantage of it. I met dozens (out of about 1,300) career coaches, consultants, school counsellors and entrepreneurs! I was inspired by their passion for the role of career development and dedication to helping others.
- Networks, mentors, collaborators and more: On my first day at the conference, I was welcomed with open arms by more experienced career coaches who were keen on “showing me the ropes.” Throughout the week, they helped by introducing me to the thought-leaders of our industry, pushing me towards the best sessions and sharing their advice for SparkPath. Other career coaches were interested in the approach I use when coaching students and I shared my point of view on preparing youth to solve big societal issues and challenges.
- Powerful talks: Some of my favorite sessions discussed the following: Chaos theory of careers, Hope centered career interventions, Career and college readiness interventions at the high school level, and best practices for career coaching businesses. Most of the sessions I attended were informative, and gave me new tools to integrate into my practice.
- Thirsty for more: How can the NCDA conference improve? This question must be on all the minds of the NCDA board members, leadership team and conference committees. Here is the question that interests me the most: How can we increase our breadth and divergent thinking as practitioners by listening to perspectives outside of career development? For example, invitees could include existing and potential clients, hiring managers, CEOs, policy makers and politicians. By immersing all stakeholders into our world and providing a platform to share impressions and feedback, perhaps the growth of our field could be accelerated.
I’m already looking forward to reconnecting with my new contacts in-person, online and at the next career conference I attend, which is likely to be the Cannexus Conference in Ottawa, Canada in January 2016.