Several years after earning my master’s degree in College Student Personnel, I decided to apply for the National Counselor Certification. I had heard about it while doing my program, but I had deferred applying and taking the exam at the time since I was writing a thesis and knew I would be applying for career advising positions rather than roles that might be considered more mental health focused. As I worked professionally as a career advisor, however, I was reminded of the very holistic nature of the work I do. Even though my position didn’t require having the counseling certification, I determined it would be beneficial to my growth as a practitioner, and would demonstrate my qualification and training for the field.
Knowing I would need to successfully pass the National Counselor Exam as part of the application process was a little overwhelming, as it had been several years since I had covered the content in my coursework. The NCE tests covers 8 content areas (human growth and development, social and cultural diversity, helping relationships, group work, career development, assessment, research and program evaluation, and professional orientation and ethical practice) as well as several work behaviors (nbcc.org). I’ve never loved exams, and the thought of taking a 200 question test over 4 hours on so much information wasn’t a thrilling thought. However, with a few good study guides and several months to fit in study, I was able to refresh my knowledge of everything from Erik’s stages of identity formation to reliability and validity in research and assessment.
Successfully passing the test and earning the designation of nationally certified counselor was of course exciting, but I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the process of actually studying for the exam. Revisiting the content areas reminded me of why I’m fascinated by how humans develop and interact with the world around them, and refreshing my understanding of ethical standards in the field helped me approach my work thoughtfully. It was also empowering to take on a big item from my “do someday list” and successfully complete it.
The experience reminded me that, as student affairs professionals who encourage growth and learning for the students we work with, it’s important to also consider our own professional and personal development. Whether it’s earning a certification in a specific area, taking on a leadership position, submitting a program proposal for a conference, or working to publish an article in a scholarly journal, stretching ourselves intellectually can have the benefit of reminding us why we love the work that we do as scholars and educators.
What are some of the ways you are planning on challenging yourself professionally or personally this next year? Write in the comments to share with the rest of us!
Inspired by Parks and Recreation’s Aziz Ansari and Retta, December is Treat Yo Self month. Colleagues will share opportunities for professional development and training.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at email@example.com.