By Stephanie Reyes
Stephanie Reyes is senior associate director of the Career Center at California State University - Fullerton.
April 27, 2021
I’ve been a NACE member since 2015 and can’t thank the association enough for all the volunteer experiences I’ve had, which have been so integral to my leadership development. When my NACE membership began in 2015, I didn’t have a leadership title, but I knew I wanted one. Not only did I want to be a leader within the institution I worked for at the time but for NACE as well. I was fortunate enough to have started out my career with amazing leadership, many of whom volunteered for NACE in some capacity. When I learned of the awesome experiences they had as NACE volunteers and the colleagues they met, I knew I wanted to be a NACE volunteer, too.
For some background on me, I identify as a Mexican American first-generation college graduate. As a first-generation college graduate, I have faced, and still face, many feelings of impostor syndrome. I mean, who doesn’t at some point in their life, right? Unfortunately, feelings of impostor syndrome don’t help with having the confidence to be a leader. There have been many times in my career when I wondered why they even gave me the job in the first place. There was no way “I” could be a leader. Well, with some great mentorship and turning around that negative self-talk I decided to put myself out there when I started my journey in career services. What’s the worst that could happen, right?
I still remember the day when I walked into my director’s office back in 2015 and saw an award on his desk that said “Rising Star” from the Mountain Pacific Association of Colleges and Employers (MPACE). I asked him, how he earned that award and what he would suggest I do to earn that award, as well. From that point on, I made it my mission to get involved with MPACE and NACE. I started by volunteering for MPACE and through an informational interview with former MPACE President Patty Bishop I found myself on the Board of Directors! That is when the impostor syndrome kicked in, but I didn’t let it stop me.
Since joining MPACE I have received their Most Valuable Person award, and Most Outstanding Service award. I can hardly believe it myself! Since then, I gained the confidence to get more involved with NACE and build my leadership skills. I applied to NACE Leadership Advancement Program (LAP). I didn’t get in the first time, but I received a call from to let me know that my application was very strong. That meant so much to me that someone reached out to call me on the phone, not an email, but on the phone. I realized I had to get more involved with NACE beyond conference presentations to be considered for LAP, so I successfully applied for the 2019 NACE Conference Program committee. That year I also got into LAP! It was an amazing experience, and I’m so grateful that NACE has this opportunity. Fast-forwarding to this year, I am now serving on the Honors and Awards Committee. As much as I continue to combat impostor syndrome, my next goal with NACE is to serve as a College Board of Director.
Looking back on how intimidated and introverted I was when I first began my career to where I’m at now, 10 years later, I’m really proud of how far I’ve come, and it’s all due to the volunteer experiences I’ve been engaged in with NACE and MPACE. If I could give one piece of advice to any new professional, regardless of the industry, I would say find experiences that make you uncomfortable. As an introvert, or even as an extrovert, it’s so important to find experiences in your career that will make you uncomfortable because that is when true growth happens. The NACE Leadership Advancement Program definitely took me out of my comfort zone, and I’m so grateful it did.
I was lucky enough to have Glen Fowler as my mentor, and he also did a great job in suggesting ways to grow my leadership skills. One idea was to select five leaders within my current institution and request an informational interview. I have suggested this task so many times in my career to students, yet I found it extremely uncomfortable to just send an email request. I sent requests to our vice president of student affairs and associate vice president to start, and my associate vice president wrote back and said she would be happy to have a coffee meeting. If not for my NACE mentor suggesting something that put me out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have done it. I hope that by sharing my volunteer experience with NACE here that someone who reads this gets inspired to volunteer and put yourself in an uncomfortable situation to grow. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!