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Among giants: Who should be recognized for their lifetime contribution to career development?

By Riz Ibrahim

Do we always recognize the giants within our midst? Do we celebrate their mammoth impact on our day-to-day work? Do we subscribe to the notion that the world is a much better place because of them? Do we attest to their unwavering commitment and tireless resolve to champion the cause of career, work and the ever-changing workplace?

Etta St John Wileman was such a giant. In the early 20th century, Wileman was champion and crusader of career, work and workplace development in Canada. She believed that work was about the individual and in the importance of work to the human soul. She was a strong advocate for a national system of employment offices, and lobbied for the role of parents and schools in the career development guidance of children. Her vision was clear and uncompromising: “Work is a social obligation which has to be provided in order that both individual and society may reap the benefit of constant productivity.” (A Coming of Age: Counselling Canadians for Work in the Twentieth Century. The Counselling Foundation of Canada, 2002. p13). It was therefore fitting that a Canadian award for lifetime achievement in career development be named after such a timeless giant.

A guidepost across the vast horizons of career and work

Initially, as the award was conceived and initiated more than a decade ago, it was facilitated through the leadership of the Canadian Journal of Career Development (la Revue canadienne de développement de carrière). The aspirational nature of the award was ever present: to surface trailblazers who combined being a mentor, educator, advisor, advocate and role model for and within career development in Canada; and to create a platform to celebrate these individuals and their contributions. The idea of the Inukshuk played a central role in what the award was – it was about steadfast direction; it was about guidance; it was about a compass to help stay on track. The personification of the award was an Inukshuk statue (commissioned from an Inuit artist from Labrador) reinforcing the notion that these award recipients, through their lifetime of commitment, had provided a guidepost across the vast horizons of career and work.

Even as the award moved to be administered by CERIC some years later, these tenets remained and were reinforced. We were always comforted by the notion that career development is quite broad and pervasive; that the commitment and tour de force of many who impact the field of career development may come from broader society; and that there are many unsung heroes – gentle giants – who give tirelessly to better the lives of Canadians through the world of career and work. We wanted to recognize and celebrate these individuals, who have engaged and inspired so many and have devoted their lives to enhancing the field of career development, directly or indirectly. The essence of the Inukshuk remains in the award to this day.

Identifying the giants in our midst

So, do we recognize the giants within our midst? Are they the Executive Director in your community agency who has dedicated their years to deeply impactful programs? Are they a researcher who has advanced a body of knowledge that has elevated career development? Are they an advocate who has unearthed means and ways and unlocked your inspiration? Are they the Elder in your community who has anchored and grounded and provided that steadfast guidepost in a rapidly changing world of career and work?

Let’s recognize our giants. Nominations for the next cycle of the Etta St John Wileman Award for Lifetime Achievement in Career Development are due by June 30, 2018.


About the Author

Riz Ibrahim is the Executive Director of CERIC. Riz works with CERIC’s cross-sectoral Board and Advisory Committees to develop strategic and functional partnerships that enhance the body of knowledge for Canada’s career professional communities. Additionally, Riz oversees all areas within CERIC’s mandate including the Cannexus National Career Development Conference, the ContactPoint and OrientAction online community collaboration portals, the peer-reviewed Canadian Journal of Career Development, and a host of internal and external projects including national surveys of Canadians’ perceptions about career planning and about career development and the workplace.

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