Coming off the heels of attending the 2013 American Counseling Association (ACA) conference, I have been reflecting on my experience there, as well as other conferences I have attended in the previous months. What stands out in my mind is the importance of relationships and networking. Now, we can have relationships that are personal or professional, or some hybrid of the two. In any regard, it is important to cultivate such connections, as demonstrated by the following:
On the second day of the conference, I stumbled into another doctoral student whom I had previously met at a different conference, nearly six months earlier. We’ll call her Sarah. Our friendship began when we were both volunteers at the Southern Association for Counselor Education & Supervision (SACES) conference. This was my first experience with meeting a doctoral student from a state other than my own. Over the course of the day, we were able to engage in fabulous dialogue, ranging from our own personal experiences in our programs to our research interests, and more. Sarah’s warm, friendly demeanor at the onset of our interaction is something I will never forget.
At the opening party, Friday evening, Sarah & I were sitting at a table updating one another on how we have been since we last saw each other. Not too long later, a woman sat down at our table and began to engage in conversation with us. Soon, I was reminded of how remarkable and impactful one's presence can be. This counselor educator started by telling us how exhausted she was after a full day of conference presentations and organizational meetings, and had not eaten all day. Yet, despite this apparent exhaustion, she proceeded to talk to us for nearly 45 minutes about her experience of mentoring both Master’s and Doctoral level students at her university. Her enthusiasm was not only infectious, but powerful. So much so, that I felt she was mentoring and providing support to two of us within this relatively brief dialogue. In subsequent days, I have been able to establish a healthy dialogue with her and hope to embark upon some research or leadership collaboration in the future.
As counselors, we do not function independently. Rather, we are often a broker of information and resources that occur through our relationships with others. In order to adequately do this, we must refer to others that hold such expertise. For instance, my clinical training is in professional school counseling. So, if I was working with a family that could benefit from family counseling services, I would need to utilize my network and refer them to a service provider that specializes in working with families.
As a future counselor educator, it is also important to be able to network. My research interests span beyond those in school counseling. So, if I were interested in assessing how school administrators view the role of a school counselor, I may want to work with professionals in the educational administration/leadership department. Also, it becomes important to network outside of your institution. We all have different strengths, which is a beautiful thing. Engaging in collaborative research allows for everyone to capitalize on their strengths and contribute in a meaningful way.
Importantly, I would like to thank those whom I have had the opportunity to network with already and look forward to those that may come in the future!
Sandi Logan is school counselor and currently a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program at University of Florida. Prior to pursuing further studies, she worked as an elementary and middle school counselor in Southern California.