Carving Your Own Path as a Professional

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Anne Marie Edwards, career counselor, Northern Illinois University

June 4, 2018

Imagine this; you are in what you considered your dream career, perfect title and responsibilities. This is what you have been preparing for! Maybe you recently completed a degree or recently completed a career change, either way you are energized and ready to make a difference. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it happens. A colleague/supervisor/mentor asks whether you are going to take some classes for professional development sake. Most are probably thinking, I just finished taking classes and there is no way that I am going to start back right away. Others are probably thinking that is a great idea. Yet others are confused as to why anyone would ask them about furthering their education.

My experience falls somewhere in the just finished taking classes and the great idea range! You see I am a career changer. I entered the world of student affairs by way of a career in business. Five years ago as someone new to the career services world, I welcomed the conversation about enhancing my education in the area. I had the practical knowledge and understood working with students, the academic foundation would tie it all together. I started off as a student at large and opted to take a helping skills course followed by a career counseling theories course the next semester. These classes were extremely helpful to me and expanded my learning base.

For those new to their careers it is easy to be overwhelmed at the thought of what you need to do next to progress in your career. First things first, relax, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now that you are centered, the next step is to begin to develop a career plan for yourself. The plan may include professional development activities, campus service opportunities, additional educational requirements etc. Having your plan in the written form helps much like a map would. Knowing where you are headed helps to carve out the path (and alternate routes) that it takes to reach your destination. Don’t worry the destination may change and that just means that the plan will be altered.

5 Thoughts on Moving Forward:

  1. Learn early that when you are given advice about academics/credentials/certifications, take what you need and leave the rest.

  2. Do not and I repeat, DO NOT enter any academic program that you are not passionate about for professional gain. This move could severely backfire if you are not careful.  

  3. Find out what professional organizations are relevant to your field and do get involved. *cough* NASPA is a great place for student affairs professionals!  

  4. Additional education may be required. However, there can be many paths to the same destination. Look for the path that speaks to you. Everyone’s path can be different so consider what skills and abilities you have and decide what you need to enhance to help propel you in your career.

  5. Invest in your own development. Further education/credentials/certifications can be pricey, however look at it as an investment in yourself.

Anne Marie Edwards is a career counselor at Northern Illinois University. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in educational psychology and is passionate about women of color and persistence. She has participated in the NASPA Center for Women Candid Conversations 365 program as a mentee and currently as a mentor.

For more information about career mapping and finding your path, check out these Center for Women Online Briefings

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