As an early career psychologist, I feel extremely privileged to have received the SoACE professional development scholarship to attend the 2017 American Psychological Association (APA) Annual Convention. It was exciting to participate in such an enormous convention while also heartening to find a smaller community of professionals who share interests in vocational counseling. Attending this convention reminded me of how important it is to connect with other professionals and to celebrate the work that is being done in our field.
My passion for career counseling began in graduate school, and I am currently a career counselor for first and second year students at the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Attending APA’s convention was one of the first times that I was surrounded by so many psychologists with similar interests. A colleague and I lead a conversation hour focused on the disadvantages of compartmentalizing career counseling from personal therapy. In addition to a discussion of the literature in this area, we specifically discussed how dismissing career issues in therapy sessions may neglect a large part of a client’s identity. We also highlighted ways of addressing the intersection of mental health and vocational issues through both general counseling skills and collaboration with other professionals.
One of the consistent themes throughout programming at the convention was a call to not operate in our own “silos” and to collaborate across disciplines. I know it is easy for me to keep to my own office and department in the midst of a busy semester. However, I was reminded at the convention that those outside of career services departments hold valuable knowledge. By working together, we can increase the impact that our work has on our clients and students. I was amazed to learn of how collaboration expanded the application of career theory and practice across populations and settings – from broadening career exploration opportunities for elementary-aged students to decreasing recidivism among prison inmates.
The largest takeaway for me from the vocational psychology programming at APA’s convention was the importance of recognizing the ever-changing world of work. It does our students and clients a disservice if we do not adapt and evolve. One symposium at the convention including work by Blustein, Kenny, Diamonti, Lent, Brown, and Savickas focused on the Psychology of Working Theory and the impact of precarious work on the services we provide to our clients. The future of work is uncertain, and they discussed the importance of helping our clients plan for both optimal and not optimal choices. This seemed well paired by another symposium presenting various work done by Whiston, Howard, Solberg, and Ali, which included information on changing career development paradigms and evidence-based practice. They discussed the critical ingredients of career choice interventions and job search interventions from research published in the Handbook of Career and Workforce Development (Solberg & Ali, 2017). This was a reminder to me that it is not enough for us to only feel that our work is having an impact, but that we need to remain current with the literature and intentionally assess outcomes – another thing to add to my task list!
Overall, the convention was a whirlwind of an experience. Despite being exhausted when I returned home, I left feeling inspired and invigorated to continue connecting with like-minded professionals (like you!) and to continue the meaningful work in our field.