Four years ago I learned that an organization in Hoboken, NJ, called The National Society for Leadership and Success (The Society) had been targeting Student Activities offices in colleges throughout the country to recruit members and develop chapters. When I explored the services and products they had to offer, it seemed like a natural fit for career development.
Their program consisted of an orientation to the organization, a leadership development seminar focused on what career counselors call “self-assessment,” and live video seminars with well-known leaders from all walks of life. Students in The Society program develop self-leadership and responsibility in small groups called “success networking teams” (SNT), where they have the opportunity to support each other in the development of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding, and timely) goals. These processes were in line with much of what I was trying to achieve in my career development work with individual students and in classroom presentations. The low-cost program was flexible so that it could be adapted to the specific population and institutional culture, and the support from the national office was like having a virtual part-time employee added to our staff.
I launched The Society program on campus 4 years ago, sending out a personal letter to all of the 4,000 enrolled students at my college. Within two weeks 120 students had paid their membership fee and enrolled. An e-board of students was created and several SNT groups were launched, facilitated by myself and a graduate student assistant. By the end of the year we had 40 enthusiastic students who had completed the required steps for induction and were eligible to attend the first annual induction ceremony.
Marketed at Capital Community College as an honor society devoted to student leadership development, the demand for the program grew and it became apparent that I would not be able to carry this new responsibility alone. It took little effort to encourage several faculty members to take on an advising role in The Society as part of their contractual “additional responsibilities.” They were trained and oriented in the model, and students were then placed with them based upon their academic interest and schedule compatibility. Faculty advisors reported great satisfaction connecting with this select group of motivated students. Our college president publicly honored faculty with awards for their participation, which led to more faculty members wanting to become advisors for the following year. Despite our induction fee and required objectives which needed to be fulfilled to meet induction requirements, The Society became the most active organization on campus. The greatest achievement was being part of a model which created collaboration between the Academic and Student Services Divisions.
At our annual student awards ceremony, Society students, who dress in business attire for the occasion, come to the podium and share their personal mission statements in the company of college administrators, faculty, staff, family, and friends. The student president and faculty advisors present Society students with their awards and outline the steps that were required for them to reach this milestone. The students speak about their leadership training and their SNT experience in small groups.
It had always been my hope to develop a systematic way of partnering with faculty in the career development process. Now in our fifth year, I am more convinced than ever that this model has created a paradigm shift in that arena, with numerous advantages and no downside. And on the student side, as professionals who are involved in the work of empowering others, this program is a bonus completely within the scope of our practice. The opportunity to work with and support students who aspire to become leaders, and to bear witness to those students coming into their own, is exhilarating. The impact and results that ripple out for everyone involved makes this the perfect fit for any college career center.
It is understandable why a paradigm shift from career planning to career and leadership planning is meaningful if we follow the history and development of “Leadership” to the present. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, our country shifted from an agricultural to an industrial focus. With this shift, there was a greater focus on the importance of skills and thus on the regular worker. This shift in the culture led us to study how leaders treat and manage their followers. We have also considered how work culture develops and how the worker fits his/her own culture into this work culture. In our work as career development specialists, we are helping individuals and work cultures to find each other. We are seeking to help individuals find meaning and satisfaction in their work. During this centennial year for NCDA, we are often looking back at the leadership exerted by Frank Parsons and the vocational guidance movement in the very beginning of the 20th century. However, leadership has been demonstrated by a large number of professionals in career development over the years. Let us not neglect the contributions and achievements from such leaders in our profession as Donald Super, John Holland, E.K. Strong, Anne Roe, David Campbell, Mark Savickas, Edwin Herr, JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey, and others too numerous to mention. We need to be aware of and appreciate the work and leadership of many dedicated individuals who have shaped our profession. Come to the 2013 annual conference in Boston and help to celebrate them all!