Shaken and Stirred at the 2022 National Career Development Associations Annual Conference

  • Posted on Jul 22, 2022

This week I’ve been shaken and stirred.

I’ve been DEEP into the National Career Development Associations annual conference as a virtual attendee.

This is my 3rd conference this summer. I’ve already attended The Society for Human Resource Managements Annual Conference and Expo, plus the Unitarian Universalist’s Association Annual General Assembly. The latter in which I presented two separate sessions. I would be all conferenced out except I LOVE learning! 🥰

I can’t recall how many times I’ve attended National Career Development Associations annual conference (it’s been a lot!), but I will never forget the time I presented.

It was 2018 and it was amazing. There was a great turnout. My session was called, “Advanced Diverse Population Skills: Best Practices in Supporting Career Criminals Seeking Legitimate Employment”.

No one else had a topic even remotely like what I was teaching. I was given a tiny portion of a room – not even a whole room. Folks were crammed into my corner of the room, eager to learn about how to help their career coaching clients get out of the underground shadow economy and into legal employment.

How do you create a resume and reference list when the client’s employment has been largely or totally underground and/or illegal? How do you answer “what is your greatest strength” in an interview when the answer might raise eyebrows for the wrong reasons? 😳

One person asked, “How can you ethically help people who are engaged in illegal activity?” My answer was simple. If I have the ability to help someone get on a less stressful, safer path, from an illegal one where their work could no longer cause harm to others or themselves, it actually could be considered unethical for me not to.

To be clear, I never started out actively helping people from the shadow economy into legit work. See…what had happened was… 🤓

…I went to gothic clubs, anime conventions, and other nontraditional places teaching career strategy and job search skills. It was easy to go to these places because they were fun and lots of my friends were there. My clients were counterculture folks. I helped trans persons change jobs with new reference letters so their new employer never knew they had ever transitioned. I helped all kinds of folks, people with all kinds of visible tattoos, long haired men, geeks, people with piercings in interesting, visible places and more. My colleagues who were career counselors referred their clients to me who were too “out there” or difficult to help. People who they would not help because they were LGBT and uncomfortable helping them. They did the right thing by referring them to me. I was grateful as were they and the client. It’s all good.

All these wonderful, beautifully unique people came to me and I helped them. Eventually folks with underground/shadow economy careers came my way asking for help. For real though, I was surprised at first and flattered and anxious in the beginning. I half-wondered if the FBI was going to knock on my door or something.

I asked this one client of mine how they found me. They said something to the effect of…”some people I knew, who knew some other people, said you don’t judge your clients, you’re big on privacy, and you help those who aren’t like everyone else. Who aren’t in regular-type jobs. Ebony, if you can’t help me – no one can and I’ll be stuck doing what I’m doing. I’m getting older and one day I’m going to mess around and get caught. Just like my friends. I don’t want that. My girlfriend wants to get married and I’m afraid I’ll mess up and won’t be there for her.  I want to get out now before it’s too late.”

I can’t tell you how fulfilled I was helping people achieve their goals and go legit against all odds. I can’t tell you how good it feels to hold space with someone who trusts you as they experience their sacred “ah ha” moments. The tears, the shock, the self-awareness. The freedom. The erasing of fear.

This is why years later, I’m still in the field of career consulting and still going strong.

I enjoy other parts of my work like as HR, training, and preaching and teaching…AND I have to say, I do believe helping people change their lives and find joy in their careers is one of my life’s purposes.

When someone’s income significantly increases, it’s life changing. When someone changes to a job that they enjoy instead of one that literally makes them sick physically or emotionally, it’s life changing. When someone moves from the anxiety and danger of the shadow economy to legit work, its life changing.

I had my first career client before I graduated college. This calling came very early in my career. It’s a strength I’ve nurtured. A gift I’ve used to help others. A gift I like to think makes the world a better place.

Sometimes after helping someone with their career in a huge way, I go back and think to myself, “How in the world did I do that?”

I continue to believe that the divine works through me; to help those who are suffering. And we know there is true and deep suffering happening in the workplace and around our careers.

We were not meant to suffer through low pay, disrespect, and abuse at work. Even if your workplace is decent, you deserve to find and follow your calling so you can live your most joyful life.

So, live your life and get your career in order.

Life is too short and you and yours deserve ALL the joy there is to have.

~ Ebony

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