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By: Cindy Haeck, NCC, LCMHC, CCC, FCD-I

Chicago…the “Windy City!” What a landscape for learning at the 2023 Annual NCDA Conference.  Writing two weeks later and I’m still trying to catch my breath.  (Has nothing to do with the smokey skies due to Canadian wildfires.)

What are the great takeaways? Much of it boils down to the people!  Sharing sacred space with others who are trying to wrap their heads around a rapidly changing landscape of the world of work…and serving others at every stage, age, and intersection of life.

At prior conferences, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hearing folks like John Krumbolz, Sunny Hansen, Rich Feller and others who have been steadfast icons in the career development space. A particular “standout” for me this year was Mark Savickas, Career Construction theorist. I’ve been a fan for years, but his reminder to “listen for the story” resonated a bit closer to the heart after navigating the journey of COVID, racial tensions, and global uncertainties with others. This can apply to the work that you do, as well as personal relationships. Catch your breath…and listen for the story.

This next take-away sounds simplistic, but in practice you may find it changes your entire conversation with students/clients.  JP Michel co-facilitated “A New Story to Tell Around the World:  Career Development Evolution from the Eyes and Tools of Four Thought Leaders.”  He offered a flipped model of helping students identify their “what and why” – the Challenge Mindset.  It’s a bit like Stephen Covey’s principle…begin with the end in mind.  Start your conversations or inquiry with this question, “What kind of problem(s) would you like to solve in the world?” From there, help them explore, discover, and drill down to what skills they would need, and how to acquire them. Now their decision has personal meaning – they have identified their “why” …and they’re on their way to creating their story. Check out more at The Challenge Mindset: Helping Youth Find Purpose and Impact | JP Michel | TEDxKanata - YouTube or Challenge Cards - Meaningful Career Exploration (

Last, how is AI going to impact our work and our world? It’s all the buzz!  Ann Nakaska, M.Ed. presented “Career Opportunities of the Future:  Increasing Access to the Global Labor Market.” Excited that she and Mark Cruver, M.Ed., have agreed to offer an upcoming workshop for NCCDA to continue this conversation.  Look for more soon in your email, newsletter, or social media!

There was so much more!  GREAT keynote speakers, thoughtful DEI sessions, exceptional round tables, constituency groups, informal conversations…and Giordano’s Pizza and Garrett’s caramel/cheddar popcorn. The 2024 conference is already scheduled for California. Might be the perfect opportunity you need to “Catch Your Breath!”

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