A Professional Worker

This post first appeared on LinkedIn on May 23, 2019.


Recently, my husband declared that I am a professional worker. I frowned when he said it and then our youngest son (Heartbeat #2) chimed in with, “Yeah, all you do is work.” Mind you, this is the same kid who expressed concern about his parents’ move to North Carolina from Rhode Island several years ago. “Mama Dukes, what are you going to do there? Doesn’t Dad know how much you like to work?” At the time of our move, I did not have a job on the horizon. It was going to be the first time I was unemployed from my early babysitting days to my time at Providence College as the Counselor-in-Residence for the Rhode Island School Counseling Project. It was the first time I would not be connected with a school. It was the first time I would experience an empty nest. I was leaving the state that nurtured me from pre-kindergarten through my doctoral program at Johnson & Wales University.

At first, I was a little peeved at being called a professional worker because it was not meant to be a compliment. On the other hand, we had just finished a marathon five-hour visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture where I insisted on visiting every floor, while attempting to read every display and watching all the videos. Not possible, but I crammed a lot into those five hours. Anyway, I half-laughed when he said it because I’ve heard some version of that throughout our almost four decades of marriage. I love my work! There, I said it out loud. I love having conversations with students about their possible selves. I love talking with my colleagues about education. I love exploring different topics in career development! I love reading about education. I love reading! In the last few years, I discovered I love the autonomy of being my own boss (okay, I don’t always love the business side of running my own business). Using all the experiences, skills and knowledge accrued over the past three decades, I am living in my purpose.

​Getting back to Heartbeat #2’s traitorous remark. This is the same kid I remember telling me about Sunday evenings at our house when he was young. We were talking about work and finding a career that captured your interest and allowed you to experience satisfaction in the workplace. On Sundays evenings, according to him, his Dad would moan and groan about returning to work on Monday, while my reaction to the impending work day was the opposite. If memory serves me correct (it’s a little flaky these days), he said my response to the upcoming work week was, “Yes, back to school! Can’t wait to get there!” The difference in our reactions resonated with Heartbeat #2 and to this day, he takes this into account when making a career decision.

Earlier this month, I co-presented at the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA) Spring Conference in Chicago, with an incredible group of professionals from various fields.

  • Mark Sklarow – CEO, IECA
  • Ann Rossbach – Independent Educational Consultant, former president of IECA
  • Scott Tang – Organizational Researcher, Publicis Sapient
  • Darryl Jones – Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Gettysburg College
  • Brittany Rae Quinones – Asst. Director of Western Regional Admission, University of Richmond
  • Alison Slater – Senior Asst. Director of Admission, Denison University

Our session, Leadership: It’s More Than a Title, included a segment summarizing Strengths Finder (thank you Scott Tang) and helping attendees understand the results from their Top Ten. That segment really needed a couple of days, but we had a time limit and within that time, we learned some practical information about ourselves. What’s the point of telling you this? At the head of my Top Five is Learner (followed by Developer, Intellection, Connectedness and Relator). More importantly than the list was something Scott said during his presentation. I heard him give us permission to own our strengths. Maybe I was the only one who heard that, but I’m running with it.

A professional worker. I’m claiming it!

Entering college for the first time? Starting a new career? Leaving an established career? Wherever you are in your stage of life, look to your strengths and own them. A recent episode on WorkLife, a podcast by Adam Grant, offered a perspective on viewing your strengths. Listen to When Strengths Becomes Weakness, tell me what you think and share how your strengths show up in your life.

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May 2021 Update

Professional development continues to be a major factor in my work life. With physical visits to campuses curtailed during 2020 (most are re-opening for in-person visits), I spend about 7 -10 hours per week on virtual visits with college admission counselors. The IECA, one of my professional organizations, regularly conducts College Conversations, an hour-long presentation with time built in for Q & A. To date, members of IECA had sessions with the colleges on the chart. Additionally, I added to this list by facilitating sessions in my capacity as the college counselor for the Montessori School of Raleigh where, along with the students, we learned more about UNC Charlotte, UNC Wilmington, the College of Wooster, Queens University of Charlotte, Muhlenberg, Elon, Western Carolina, North Carolina Central, the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Did you know UNC Wilmington has a major in Coastal Engineering or that Western Carolina (along with UNC Pembroke and Elizabeth City State) is a NC Promise institution? A NC Promise school’s in-state tuition is $500 while non-residents pay $2500 per semester.

Our virtual world allows for hours upon hours of accessible college information sessions. I had to step back and limit myself to a reasonable number of hours of “college visits”.

I challenge my students regularly to move beyond their comfort zone and during the height of the pandemic, I stretched myself way beyond my level of comfort. I am one of 14 co-authors of Becoming The Shero, an anthology depicting the journeys of entrepreneurs at different stages of their lives. My story is in the Embracing the Pivot section.

Another way I stay current is through my new position at Providence College. As of August 2020, I am the College Supervisor for the School Counseling Program. What does the college supervisor do? I supervise the students in the program during their 2-semester internship at a school, where they are directly supervised by their Site Supervisor, a certified professional school counselor. It is the student teaching equivalent for school counseling.

Reading is a daily pleasure for me. Here are nine books (not in chronological order) that helped me to educate myself about current events and issues of social justice:

  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents ~ Isabel Wilkerson
  • How to Be An Anti-Racist ~ Ibram X. Kendi
  • Stamped From The Beginning ~ Ibram X. Kendi
  • I’m Still Here ~ Austin Channing Brown
  • The Color Of Law ~ Richard Rothstein
  • We Want To Do More Than Survive ~ Bettina Love
  • Down Along With That Devil’s Bones ~ Connor Towne O’Neill
  • Interrupting Racism: Equity and Social Justice in School Counseling ~ Rebecca Atkins & Alicia Oglesby
  • Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race ~ Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

To stay up-to-date on trends in college, career and paying for college, see my list of books under the “Parent Resources” tab.

I challenge my students to be lifelong readers. I am practicing what I preach. What are you reading today?

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