Meaning Shines in Spotlight on NCDA

img952016063095202348066-2The National Career Development Association held its yearly conference in Chicago, Illinois from June 30-July 2, 2016.  The focus of the conference was Fostering Well-Being Through Meaningful Work.  Keynote speakers addressed the meaning of work as HEROIC endeavors, balancing work and life, and Meaning at Work, Working at Meaning by Rich Feller, Pepper Schwartz, and Mark Savickas, respectively. Through these keynote presentations, numerous breakout sessions, and roundtables, the importance of caring for ourselves and caring for others to foster well-being and meaningful work was central.

Conference participants found deeper meaning in their work with their clients and in their own work through the array of activities and professional connections offered at the conference. In addition, deeper meaning through professional collegiality was also cultivated.  Several WCDA members were in attendance to celebrate collegiality with an evening WCDA social. In the spirit of collegiality and sharing the meaning gleaned from the conference, several members highlight what they took away from this powerful experience. Further, many of these members will be spotlighted in upcoming WCDA Member Spotlights.

Here are some of the highlights of the conference shared by WCDA attendees:

Julie Hau–Two sessions which remain cemented in my mind from the conference are the keynote by Dr. Mark Savickas and “Leaning In without Falling Over: Empowering Women Using Strengths to Articulate Goodness of Fit in the Workforce” by Leann Morgan and Katie Maguire both of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Dr. Savickas talk transported me to an ancient place of essential humanity from which we all weave our life’s work. Morgan and Maguire discussed how women can over use or minimize our strengths to the detriment of work-life balance. From the mundane to the miraculous, I was reminded that our life’s work is to seek out and live through meaningful relationships and meaningful connections to the work we do.

John Pritchett—On Saturday morning I attended session #711 “YouScience Brings Aptitude Assessment to Scale” Dr. Rich Feller and Jenn Long from Colorado State University along with Martine Mahoney from YouScience provided the presentation.   This session was particularly interesting to me because their assessment combines an aptitude assessment along with an interest survey.   Most other career assessments and surveys measure interests, values, personality and possibly a self-rating of skills or abilities.  I often receive requests from parents for an assessment that would help their student see where their strengths or “aptitudes” lie as well as interests.  I was also wondering if this tool might be helpful in working with students who are looking at Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) programs, and especially if the student did not do well on their entrance exam.  Martine Mahoney provided a demo last week for our Career Connections staff and colleagues from our Testing Center, Counseling and Student Accessibility departments.  After participating in the webinar, a number of our staff within the Career Connections Department of WCTC will soon be taking the assessment ourselves to get a better understanding of the tool.  In addition, some current high school students and recent high school graduates that I have been working with this Summer will also take the assessment.  I am optimistic that this tool will provide them with some additional insight into their career options, and for myself… an additional resource to be able to utilize when assisting high school students and young adults facing career decisions in the future.

April McHugh

  1. The Career Literacy Initiative with Bill Symonds discussed how we need to change the culture in higher education by making career development a priority!  This has been my own personal soap box for years!  I felt like I had fallen into career utopia!  This proposal is working towards having career development coordinators & career development advisors in each school across the country to help students connect the dots of education to careers & work.
  2. Dr. Pepper Schwartz focused on balance in her keynote.  I loved this quote from her, “Your life is the most important thing you will own.”  So my question to each of us is how will we find balance joy in all of our roles to live the most authentic & fulfilling life we can?
  3. Dr. Mark Savikas touched a personal chord for me with his keynote.  At one point he talked about how we take our own symptoms & strengths to make a social contribution as career professionals.  In other words, we will be what we needed in our lives for our clients. His words were incredibly powerful and profound as evident on the faces of those in attendance.  The room surged with emotional energy.
  4. Lastly, but probably the most exciting, I had the incredible privilege to meet Dr. Savikas before his keynote and as he waited for his wife.  He is an incredible man, humble (wanting to be called Mark), approachable and very engaging.  We talked about hearing clients’ stories and the wondrous meanings that come from them.  It was an honor to have this conversation with such an important contributor to our field!


A call for proposals for the 2017 NCDA Career Development Conference has been posted.  The deadline is October 4, 2016. The next conference is in Orlando, Florida from June 28-30.

About Julie Hau

Dr. Julie Hau has a doctorate from the UW-Madison in Counseling Psychology. She has worked as a career counselor, professor, and academic advisor. She works at the Center on Education and Work, UW-Madison. Currently, she is on the WCDA board as Outreach and chair of the Social Media Committee.