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The MCDA Wellspring April 2016


President’s Letter

By Susan Gordon


What's in store for MCDA this month and beyond? Read Sue's letter to find out.

Link to President's Letter  

MCDA Annual Conference

"Meaningful Career, Meaningful Life"


It's April and that means one thing: the MCDA Annual Conference is almost here. Have you registered yet?

Link to Event Details
March Madness: The Career Take
By De Jackson


Today is the Championship Game to mark the end of March Madness. As you prepare to watch, check out De Jackson's Sweet 16 career madness tip list.

Link to Article
Feature Article: The Uses of Failure: Guts, Grit, and Grace
By Mary Jacobsen

Failure is inevitable; yet, no one wants to experience it or read about it. That's not what Mary thinks. Read her insights into the meaning of failure.

Link to Article

Link to Details
Call for Nominations

Interested in helping MCDA? Read here about upcoming opportunities to become more involved.

Link to Details
Theme of the Year

Our theme this year is "Meaningful Career, Meaningful Life." Here are a few resources to get you ready for a content-packed conference.

Link to Resources

Looking for Newsletter Contributions

By Krasi Shapkarova


Call for newsletter submissions.

Contribute to the newsletter

President's Letter

by Susan Gordon


Dear MCDA Members:

Spring is a special time for MCDA members. Not only do we enjoy the warm sun and beautiful cherry blossoms, but we also grow new relationships through our annual conference. Be sure to join us on the evening of Thursday, April 28, and on Friday, April 29, for our conference

Meaningful Career, Meaningful Life.” Our conference will get started on Thursday evening as MCDA’s Marilyn Maze shares how members of the Asia Pacific Career Development Association find meaning in their careers, and what lessons we can take from that part of the world. On Friday, David Reile, MCDA member and President-Elect of the National Career Development Association, will guide us to meaning

by looking at our values. We hope you can join us in Columbia, Maryland for a meaningful day of

breakout sessions, round tables, and networking. 

MCDA offers professional development opportunities beyond the conference. Most recently, we gathered in Frederick, Maryland to learn how to make meaningful networking connections by using LinkedIn.

MCDA President-Elect Ronda Ansted, MSW, DMgt, and Beth Davis-Reinhold, CPRW of the Frederick County Workforce Services, provided an interactive, information packed session. All learned new tricks

on how to maximize LinkedIn for ourselves and our clients.

We are looking ahead to elections for the 2016-2017 year, which begins July 1st. Are you looking for a way to help MCDA? We’re seeking a new Secretary, with many thanks to Rebecca Benner who has

served in the role for three years. In addition, there are  opportunities to serve on the Board. We seek a chair for our Programs and Events. And, we always seek committee members-if you’d like to help

develop programs, plan the conference or choose our awardees, there’s a place for you in MCDA.

I wish you a warm spring, and look forward to seeing you at the conference! 


Sue Gordon

MCDA President


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MCDA Annual Conference

"Meaningful Career, Meaningful Life" 

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
5485 Twin Knolls Road
Columbia, Maryland 21045

Thursday, April 28: 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm (optional)

Friday, April 29: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm


The annual MCDA conference is THE place to be to stay on the cutting edge of your profession, network with colleagues, and earn NBCC-approved CEUs!
The conference starts Thursday evening with an optional session that includes dinner and a keynote presentation by Marilyn Maze, Ph.D.,who will be addressing International NCDA efforts, including the Asia Pacific Career Development Association.

We kick-off Friday with a keynote presentation by David Reile, Ph.D, president-elect of NCDA (National Career Development Association), followed by a full day of 12 different workshops and 4 Round Table sessions from which to choose. Continental breakfast and lunch are included.

Sponsorship and Exhibitor Opportunities Now Available

MCDA's Vision:

MCDA’s vision is that all career professionals provide the most effective and efficient services in an ethical manner.

Our Mission: 

The Maryland Career Development Association’s mission is to promote a forum where career professionals network and share resources to ensure the quality of career services to the standards of the National Career Development Association.

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  March Madness: The Career Take

By De Jackson

Ok, March is a super big month for basketball. Everyone knows about the Sweet 16 and Final Four. I

have been playing around with the words affiliated with this sport for years, entitling articles with a career madness theme for years. I even developed a workshop by the same name once. So, here is my Sweet

16 career madness tip list. Let the game begin!

1. Be bold enough to think you can achieve your goals. If you don’t believe it, your peers will see the lack of confidence. But, be careful not to go “mad” and become an egotist which will always keep you out of the running.

2. Re-invent yourself. If you feel you are in a rut career-wise, try some additional training.

3. Check out your competition. Be in the top pick.

4. Look for new opportunities. Sometimes the search alone with spark your enthusiasm and create a positive attitude. Hope has to be woven into your plan of success.

5. Take your best "Jump shot." Do something you have never done before.

6. Practice your skills. Keep them sharp. Perfect them. If it works, keep running with the ball. If not, pass it on and find another strategy.

7. Take time out once in a while to re-evaluate yourself.

8. Consider who is on your dream team. Are they players that add value to your life and goals? Or, do they just cause penalties and hold you down?

9. Stay in your lane. Take time to learn your gifts. Use them or lose them.

10. Traveling out of your comfort zone is important. Example: If you are an introvert, try taking some public speaking courses.

11. Watch your shot clock. Don’t over dribble. Make sure you understand time management and how important it is to your career success.

12. Be a good team player. Exhibiting unsportsmanlike behavior is not a good game tactic. Try to see all sides of a situation and offer solutions.

13. Rebound quickly from negative comments and foul play. Get back up. Always keep moving forward.

14. Don't block your blessings by not listening to advice.

15.Some of your ideas might seem like air balls. Just remember, most successful people had their share of people laughing at them too.

16. And finally, just play the game of life the best you can. It’s not the win, but how you play the game.

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The Uses of Failure: Guts, Grit, and Grace

by Mary Jacobsen


“I dread becoming like my father.

He is a happy man,

a devoted father, and a good person,

but he never made much money and

is a complete failure in life.”


My client Ray’s fear, expressed above, crystallizes a rift in values that drives many of us to strive relentlessly for success. We admire kindness, courage, generosity, and the other “eulogy virtues,” as David Brooks calls them. But success in America is measured by the “resume virtues” of wealth, power, and prestige; these matter more…seemingly until we die, when – game over -- the pressure to succeed dissolves, with the body, into dust. The eulogy virtues at last ascend in significance.

Our drive to outpace failure prompts a bull market of books and seminars that promise formulas for success. Best sellers tell us that high achievers have passion, perseverance, and discipline. Some even meditate. All well and true. But many people who also possess these habits fail. The books don’t mention this possibility, because, really, who wants to read about it? We can work hard, write down our dreams, meditate, and try, try again, and we may not get the job, the promotion, the award, the grade, or the fellowship.


What went wrong!


Nothing could be more inevitable than encountering failure. Yet in spite of its ubiquity, few experiences make us feel more ashamed, more like keeping it secret. We transition seamlessly from having failed “at” something to feeling that we “are” a failure, a loser, a screw up. Failure burdens us with proof of a  deficient self.


This harsh view of failure isn’t the only or a necessary lens on it, but one profoundly shaped by American culture. In “Born Losers: a History of Failure in America,” historian Scott Sandage notes that prior to the Civil War, failure meant “breaking in business” – going broke. It was an event, not an identity. A person could not be called “a failure,” any more than a person with an illness could be called “an illness.” Over time, we’ve forgotten, says Sandage, that “feeling like a failure is a figure of speech, the language of business applied to the soul.”


Sandage attributes the shift in our attitudes toward failure to the emergence of credit rating agencies and the rise of entrepreneurial capitalism in the late 19th century. Being rated as a “bad risk” or “good for nothing” gradually applied not just to one’s credit rating, but to moral worth. America embraced business as the “dominant model for our outer and inner lives.” The American Dream became an ideology of “achieved identity; obligatory striving is its method, and failure and success are its outcomes.” Failure  went from being a “bump in the road” to a “full stop…a kind of death.”


How can we return failure to its mundane place as an unwelcome but expectable event in life, more akin    to tooth decay or a blizzard than a monster who will etch a scarlet “F” on our soul for eternity?


I know of two strategies that help tame the beast.


First, we can be honest about the frequency of course corrections – usually triggered by failure -- in everyone’s career. In “Composing a Life,” author Mary Catherine Bateson notes that we can all tell  multiple versions of our life stories. Some versions highlight the disappointments, failures, disruptions,  and surprises. Other versions position us as surefootedly progressing from one achievement to the next, never stymied by failure nor by soul searching about the merits of our work. The latter, linear versions   are the ones we usually share, because we think that is what it means to be successful.


We don’t think our career paths should include surprises or setbacks, even serendipitous ones, suggests Deborah P. Bloch in an article in Career Development Quarterly. In fact, we assume that other people’s careers are steady ascents, tracking forward and higher in a planned sequence. As a result, we keep the truth of our crooked paths secret.


If we divulge our secret stories, we normalize and destigmatize the bumpy road of life. We’re likely to find that we are surrounded by fellow travelers who wound up somewhere later in life that they couldn’t possibly have imagined when they began.


My “secret history” contains plenty of failure-prompted serendipities. After failing to get a college teaching job with my freshly minted PhD in English, I rebounded as a public relations writer at a university. While interviewing students for admissions materials, one mentioned applying for a masters degree in social work. I’d been interested in becoming a therapist, but couldn’t bear the thought of another PhD program. Two years in a social work program seemed doable. The rest is history.


What I wanted most, however, was to be a best selling novelist. I tried for decades, but was thwarted at every turn. The disappointment broke me. Seeking solace, I looked for volunteer work with animals. I cleaned cages and fed rehabilitated raptors, ducks, woodchucks, and rabbits at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. Being around animals was soothing and peaceful. After two years of volunteering, I stumbled into the chance to train for a part-time job teaching children about farming and wildlife. I’d never wanted to work with children and didn’t have a background in the field. I was planning to say “no,” but “yes” popped out.


It was a benign reversal. Not only did I enjoy teaching, I was surprisingly good at it. Now I know how to   milk a cow and card wool. I do programs with owls and hawks perched on a thick leather glove on my hand. It is the best job I ever had.


I have failure to thank.


The second strategy is to master the fine art of failure. Pema Chodron writes that failing well is an undervalued skill. Indeed! The directive given in the title of her book -- “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better” -- rings scandalously antithetical to the American Dream. Perhaps that is why the title is alluring. We sense rebellion brewing. Something subversive and wise.


Wisdom is what Chodron provides. She redefines what it means to fail badly. It doesn’t mean getting fired or flunking. It means thinking of failure as happening to us from the outside. Then we get caught in either blaming others, which prompts aggression and resentment. Or we blame ourselves, which prompts self-aggression and, as an escape, addictions of all kinds.


The artful way to fail is to free fall into our emotions. “Instead of labelling yourself a failure or a loser or thinking there is something wrong with you, you could get curious about what is going on….Can you allow yourself to feel what you feel when things don’t go the way you want them to?” In failure’s marrow, we   “feel the bleedingness of it, the raw-meat quality of it.”


When we hold rawness and vulnerability in our hearts, suggests Chodron, we enter a “genuine and timeless space which human beings have experienced from the beginning of time, an unguarded place where nothing is either one way or the other, but you can hold the fullness of life in your heart.” It is in   that place, when we aren’t “masking ourselves or trying to make circumstances go away – that our best qualities begin to shine.” Bravery. Kindness. Empathy. Strength. Reaching out to others. Eulogy virtues bloom in the strangely fruitful soil of failure.


Failure not only catalyzes strengths, it reshapes destiny. “It’s a little hard,” Chodron notes, “to tell what’s failure and what is something that is pushing your life in a whole new direction.” During those “seemingly uneventful and motionless moments” when we are attentive to sorrow, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke says, the future steps into us. We are “alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst   of a transition where we cannot remain standing. That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us…has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there -- is already in our bloodstream.”


The future enters us in this way in order to be transformed inside, long before it “happens” as if from the outside. “What we call fate,” Rilke says, “does not come into us from the outside, but emerges from us.”


A “failed academic” (which is how I thought of myself) who couldn’t find a teaching post became a  therapist instead. A “failed novelist” became a wrangler of raptors. Neither outcome could have been planned, because I couldn’t imagine them. But both outcomes were an excellent fit for me. Life has no maps, or the maps are hidden, the links between one step and the next discernible only in hindsight.      


It takes guts to free fall into the rawness and vulnerability of failure. It takes grit to explore the terrain beyond success and failure. But it is there, in our previously unplumbed depths, that we may stumble into a creative domain where a more authentic and gratifying fate is being catalyzed into being. We need not, perhaps cannot, will this new direction into being. We can only get out of its way and patiently, with curiosity and faith, allow it to emerge. Then when fate percolates upward from within, it surfaces an unexpected life, a more authentic self, and a deeper well of wisdom.


And that, my friends, is grace. 

Mary Jacobsen has more than 20 years experience as a teacher, therapist, career coach, and workshop leader. She maintains a practice in Arlington, MA and has offered workshops nationally on the topic of her book, Hand-Me-Down Dreams: How Families Influence Our Career Paths, which applies inter-generational family systems theory to explore individuals' decision-making and the formation of values about work, success, and money. She has taught positive psychology as well as courses in family systems theory and in psychology and literature.

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Congratulations, Karol!

Our very own Karol Taylor has been awarded NCDA's Outstanding Career Practitioner Award for 2016.

The Outstanding Career Practitioner Awards recognizes practicing career counselors, consultants, or teachers for outstanding performance in day-to-day service. Each of the following areas are considered: years of service, quality of service, and participation and leadership in professional associations.

Way to go, Karol! We are so proud of you!

Call for Nominations

Happy Spring! MCDA board members have been working on preparing another great and exciting conference for you. There will be many workshops to choose from, along with an opportunity to connect with other leaders in the career development industry. I do hope to see you there!


MCDA will soon be seeking nominations for next year's Officers for the positions of President-Elect, Treasurer and Secretary. Have you ever considered running for office with MCDA? Do you know someone who would be a great fit?  


There are numerous benefits and advantages that come with leading a state career development association such as acquiring continuing education contact hours, professional development and networking opportunities with national leaders of National Career Development Association (NCDA) and American Counseling Association (ACA). We encourage you to join those of us who keep our organization moving forward. I have personally enjoyed serving as an Officer and grateful for the experience.  


The term for holding offices is July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. There are other opportunities to serve as well, such as serving as Chair or a member of one of our many committees. The Programs and Events Committee and Awards Committee Chair positions will become available this upcoming year.


Current board members will be attending the 2016 conference and this will be a great time to talk to them and learn more about the positions. You can also learn more by visiting the volunteer opportunities section on the MCDA website or click this link to be taken directly to the page. Feel free to also reach out to me with any questions you may have. 


Thank you and I look forward to seeing you at the conference!


Carolyn R. Owens

Immediate Past President


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Theme of the Year Resources

4. "How to Live a Meaningful Live," Huffington Post

5. "Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career," TED Talks


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 Looking for Newsletter Contributions

by Krasi Shapkarova, MCDA Newsletter Editor


Greetings MCDA colleagues!

Spring has sprung so let your creativity soar and consider contributing to the newsletter. If you are interested (and I hope all of you are!), check out the submission guidelines here and/or email me directly at k.shapkarova@jhu.edu with questions, comments or concerns.


Krasi Shapkarova


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Maryland Career Development Association (MCDA)
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