We often hear that networking has many benefits. While you build your connections you are more likely to get referrals, hear about job opportunities, increase your support system, share and receive ideas, etc. While I knew many of these benefits from personal experience, I was astonished when I heard that the present and former president of the Florida Counseling Association (FCA), Dr. Shon Smith and Ms. Kathryn WIlliams respectively, had taken their leadership roles as the result of their network systems.
Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Dr. Smith and Ms. Williams’s stories. They were invited by the Professional Development Committee of the Chi Sigma Iota chapter at my school to network with current students in the Counselor Education program. While I live in Florida, I didn’t know much about this ACA branch nor did I think it was very important to join it. I planned on attending their presentation because I was interested in hearing about their leadership journey and professional experience. To my surprise, their path to leadership had been unplanned but nonetheless rewarding as well as influential.
Their stories were similar and at the same time unique. They had both been contacted to serve in leadership roles by people they knew and believed in them. Ms. Williams talked about starting her leadership career right after graduation when, as an alumni from the University of Florida, she was contacted by a faculty member to serve as the treasurer of FCA. Surprisingly, she wasn’t sure the position was the right fit, but as she said, “Sometimes people see what you can’t even see yourself”. Dr. Smith had also had an interesting journey. After graduating with degrees such as Criminal Justice and Rehabilitation and School Counseling in Pennsylvania, he was suggested to serve for a division for his state of residence. He accepted and he later moved to Florida where he continued seeking leadership roles to serve his profession. As he mentioned, once you are in them [leadership roles], it’s difficult to get out.
In regards to joining my local ACA branch, FCA, I learned that it was more important that I thought. Attending your local branch conferences, being involved with the association, and networking with statewide professionals, it’s essential in expanding your opportunities and in your development as a counselor. Local professionals can guide you with state legislations and requirements for licensure based on their experience practicing in your state. Additionally, they can share their experiences and refer you to local jobs of your interest. Who knows? You may meet your next employer in your next local conference.
As the result of today’s presentation, I bought a student membership of the FCA and I will be attending the conference in Tampa on October 5-6th. Additionally, I look forward to get involved with my local ACA branch and start a leadership role within it as a graduate student.
Alejandra Delgado is a counselor-in-training at the University of Florida. She volunteers as a Crisis Line Counselor and works as the School-Based Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Florida.