Encouraging Career Development With The NCDA Contest

By Frank Coulson

Each November, during National Career Development Month, NCDA promotes the Career Poetry and Poster contest. Students from Kindergarten up through Older Adults have the opportunity to explore their career dreams through the creative mediums of poetry, traditional poster art or graphic arts.


I became involved with the contest in Texas about five years ago. I was a Career Counselor at a University and wanted to run the contest on my campus. At that time, I checked into who the Texas state contest coordinator was, and the response was the question, would I be it?


While I worked at the University, our office ran the contest each November. We found it was an extra marketing tool to gain notice of our career counseling services to students. Through the contest, our office was able to network with the English Composition Professors for the poetry portion of the contest. We were also able to make the same networking contacts with the Art Professors for the poster portion of the contest.


I would like to say all the Professors promoted the contest to their students but in reality only a few in each department supported our efforts. A couple Professors even offered entrance into the contest as extra credit. One important item that came afterwards was our office found a number of student referrals from those very same Professors. So the networking paid off in helping some campus Professors understand better how Career Counselors helped students.


2010 Winner Intermediate grades 3-5  1st Place - Anna Campbell - Virginia

At this past NCDA conference in San Antonio, I had the privilege to manage the Career Month booth in the Exhibit Hall. We showcased the winning entries and even met some of the contest winners. One NCDA member from Virginia told me a story of how a principal in her state had in his school several winners. It was in a poor rural district and the students had won Barnes and Noble Bookstore cards. This principal took the time to drive the students to the nearest big city and helped them each purchase a book at the Barnes and Noble bookstore. She mentioned to me that these students had never been to a bookstore before. I thought to myself, what an impact this must have had on these students in their present and hopefully in their future.


This coming November marks the 46th Annual NCDA Career contest. The theme will be “My Career Dreams”. Contest information and a downloadable Brochure/Entry form is on the NCDA website. We would like to again feature some of the winners at the annual NCDA Career Development Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in June 2012. Click here to link to the Contest web page.


I would encourage all Career Counselors and Coaches to use this creative tool with those you serve. The contest can encourage someone by tapping into their creative side to affirm their career direction or open their minds to new possibilities. You may want to take a few moments and explore the contest webpage and view the creativity of last year’s winners. You may also want to enter the contest yourself!


In closing, I have a question: since being asked a year ago to chair the national contest I have been on a quest to try to find who originated the contest. I feel like Indiana Jones on a quest, minus the snake pits. As of this date I still have not found out who originated the contest. If anyone reading this remembers back to about 1964 as to who started the contest please contact me at coulsonfrank@hotmail.com or the official contest email ncdacontest@ncda.org .



Frank Coulson, LPC, is a career counselor in Texas. His blog is www.livingmorethanok.blogspot.com . He can be reached at coulsonfrank@hotmail.com or the official contest email ncdacontest@ncda.org