Counseling Today, From the President

Looking at the how and why of ACA members as entrepreneurs

Marie Wakefield September 1, 2006

How is a professional counselor like an entrepreneur? This may sound like the first line of a bad joke, but in actuality, it is a question that I have thought about for quite some time.

When you think about it, there are a number of similarities between the two professions. How do I know this? Because I have firsthand experience in both worlds. My observation is that to be successful in either environment, one must be adept at advocacy, networking, understanding the importance of operating in a team model and knowing how to spread the word about the good things we do.

Last month, I shared with you the thoughts of some of the American Counseling Association’s newest members — those who will be helping to take the profession into the middle of this century. But what about those of us who are in our mid or later career phases? Today, I challenge you, my ACA colleagues, to join with me as “entrepreneurial counselors.” We need to let the public know who we are and what we do. We need to explain how our role in society is key to helping people overcome the challenges to living a life that values and embraces human dignity.

However, we cannot do this as individuals working in a vacuum. In my role as an entrepreneur, I realized early on that the dynamics of each encounter I had with others in the field resulted in personal growth through leadership development. In turn, those experiences provided tools for positive career changes. Isn’t this something that we, as professional counselors, also seek in the work we do? Working as a team is key regardless of your work setting.

Given the premise that working in a collaborative way will result in much more progress being made in our professional careers, I would ask you to consider the impact of ACA’s 44,000 members. The progress we have made in the area of public policy at the state and local levels, the upcoming annual convention (for which we received more than 1,000 proposals to present) and the synergy that we experience each fall as our regional leadership trainings convene are but three examples of why working collaboratively makes us a stronger and more vibrant profession.

What will you do to bring more of our colleagues to the party? The “why” is obvious based on what I have articulated above; the “how” can be more of a challenge!

Let me share a personal example. Last year, on a flight to an ACA meeting, I initiated a conversation with a woman seated next to me. During the course of the conversation, I found out that she was a school counselor and a member of ACA. I quickly recruited her to increase her involvement in ACA as a member of a task force this year. It was a great opportunity to talk about the annual convention and other membership opportunities. Never pass up a recruiting moment!

Many of us attend other events, either for personal or professional reasons, where we have an audience with which to connect. In those circles, we may find that the areas of interest align with ACA’s dedication to enhancing and promoting the counseling profession.

Personal invitations to national ACA, division, region and branch events are one way to get started toward growing our community. Those in leadership might want to offer financial support toward conference registrations or memberships. Sharing your copies of Counseling Today or the Journal of Counseling & Development is an inexpensive, risk-free way to introduce others to our organization. Applying some of the strategies from an entrepreneur’s playbook is not such a bad idea.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you will feel free to communicate with me via e-mail at mawakefield@cox.net or by calling 800.347.6647 ext. 232.