As one of the SoACE Professional Development scholarship recipients, I was asked to write about what I learned at the SoACE Annual Conference in Fort Lauderdale this past December. It seems like a lifetime ago that hundreds of us were gathered at the beachfront resort! While I would like to think that my conference experience was completely unique, logic tells me that many others in the crowd had been struggling to keep their heads above water the entire fall semester, too. Many of us returned home to months of absolute chaos. I have been grateful every week since conference that I trusted my instinct, the inner prompt to continue and participate as planned because it was important. I had been deliberate in my decision to pursue investment in my professional development, and I had to trust the time away would be re-energizing, at a minimum.
What I have been preaching to students for a few years now is anchored in the self-mission of “being intentional”. What exactly do I mean? Investing your time and energy in meaningful pursuits. Taking full advantage of the resources available and ownership of your career journey. Unlike high school, nothing is simply handed to you. The expectations are high and the future implications even higher. You must be tenacious in creating your best work life. And although it may not look 100% like you dreamed to start, your deliberate start will pave the way for your dreams.
Teresa Amabile said, “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.” My single greatest takeaway from conference is that we all do meaningful work. Every single one of us. Every. Single. Day. Our connections and conversations with students matter, and they will have life-long significance. We, as humans, tend to get caught up in our own organizational (and personal) islands. We, as career service professionals, are all understaffed and underfunded, leaving us to do our absolute best with limited resources. However, we are not alone, and the value of our professional investments in others cannot be forgotten or diminished.
From the keynote address of Clint! Runge and Daron Roberts to the countless breakout sessions, networking opportunities, and social events, there was one singular reminder that resonated with me… serving students is extremely meaningful work. From the first SoACE conference I attended in 2015 to this past December’s event, I knew there was one thing very different about the members of our professional association. I have finally pinpointed what makes this group of colleagues exceptional; it is the motivation to serve others in a mighty way.
Whether you are diligently involved in creating connections with employers who will recruit your students or assisting students in career decision-making, our endeavors are worthwhile and tremendously impactful. We must champion our own professional development to ensure that we are refreshed and renewed professionally on a consistent basis. This is meaningful work, and I am incredibly thankful to be on this journey with you all!
Kathy Creel works as a Career Advisor at Middle Tennessee State University.