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Reflections from 2018 Leadership Award Winner

By Donna Montoya

I must first start by thanking the OCDA Board and membership for the immense honor I received in being given this year’s Leadership Award. I am truly stunned – I can think of so many others in OCDA who do so much more than I. The support and appreciation I felt (feel) gave me the gift of contemplation, thankfulness, and pride. It makes me think about leadership in general, and that there are many types of leaders. As I reflect upon receiving the award, I realized that I learned just how important we all are to the individuals we serve, and that everyone gets to be a leader in his or her own way.

Speaking of learning – this year’s professional development institute provided a wonderful platform for just that. When I think of all of our PDIs, the primary vision that jumps into my mind is always reconnecting with peers, swapping stories, seeing people in person after a year of witnessing lives through our online platforms, and feeling that camaraderie that binds us all together. We truly have a sensational group and bright future in helping others. This year, Dr. Blustein’s presentation added a unique twist on this bright future through the theme of The Future of Work.


The future is what we are all aiming for, is it not? We meet with students, clients, mentees, and while we use the past to help guide us, most of our work is indeed about the future – how to make it better, how to follow our dreams, or how to survive it; how to leverage the here and now to operate in a frame of hope, whether that is being guided by hope, or whether it is searching for hope through a difficult time. I work primarily with traditional undergraduate students, and this idea of developing a bright future is ultimately what drives much of my work. So how fitting is it that this year’s theme was all about the future of work itself.

What struck me the most was the idea of “precarious work,” and how concepts such as resilience, self-advocacy and self-reliance are so present in this new world of how careers emerge and grow. I recently came across an article from the World Economic Forum that reflects Dr. Blustein’s predictions and insights relating to what work is increasingly becoming in this future world of artificial intelligence, the need for connection, and the way mobility and contract work are reforming what was once the traditional 9-5 job environment. You can read the article here. One thing that stood out to me was that already, 36% of workers in the United States do freelance work. So in a sense, the future is already upon us.

To me, Dr. Blustein’s information alluded to the need to learn, understand, and practice resiliency, especially for those who are now part of that freelance or contract atmosphere. During the live case study after our lunch, it became evident to me that no matter at what age or stage in a person’s career, resiliency will at some point be vital to keep going. Whether that is as a result of a lay-off, or an impending graduation, or a need of a career change, or simply because contract and freelance work seem to lend to such a high rate of insecurity. One thing I have taken back to my department is that renewed belief in the work we are doing with students to model and help build resiliency as a part of life-long career success.

I am also bringing back a reflection regarding self-advocacy and self-reliance. It is quite scary to think of a whole generation of workers who will be conditioned to see each other as perhaps adversaries, scrambling to be the chosen one for a full-time employment offer out of other contractors at a company. It is disheartening to think that people do not have the same level of voice, or at least confidence to exercise that voice, in their organizations because they are contractors. It reaffirms what my department sees as necessary career skills such as negotiation, marketing one’s skills, advocating and strategic planning for one’s own career, continuous professional connections, and ways to pursue professional passions as extra income – all in an attempt to help prepare our students with their own power to pursue life-long career paths. I believe the future of work will be bright.

I believe that we will each be the light for our students or clients through our positions as career practitioners. I also believe that these PDIs, the research and work that Dr. Blustein is spreading, our own continuous learning, and the evolvement of how we ourselves view the worlds of work will be vital as we help guide others towards their own futures of work.

Published March 2018

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