After seven years away, it was good to come home to Cannexus, Canada’s National Career Development Conference, and spend a few days learning and sharing with my fellow career professionals. Since the last time I was able to attend was 2012, I was also curious to see how things had changed and evolved over the years. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on Cannexus then and now.
While it had become the norm for busy professionals to carry a cellphone back in 2012, our usage was certainly different. These days, cell phones not only make us accessible when “urgent” matters arise, but have become our contact book, camera, social media marketing tool, note-taking device, map, boarding pass holder, etc. This change has made it socially acceptable for us to be available and/or engaging with our phones not just at break times, but 24-7.
While we can argue that this increased access has made us more efficient, I’m left wondering if it’s worth the cost. Where we were once “forced” to engage and share with others, we are now able to avoid the initial discomfort of in-person interactions by taking out our phones. The problem with this is that it’s during these moments of discomfort that we may discover a new resource, a new insight or even a new friend. We need to decide if cellphones are increasing our learning and engagement or providing an additional layer of distraction in an already distracted world. While cellphone usage is not an issue exclusive to Cannexus or career professionals, it’s still worth consideration as we look to the future of learning and work.
Shifting the focus: millennials to boomers
Back it 2012, the hot topic was – you guessed it – millennials. While it’s still important to discuss strategies to assist younger generations with career development, I was pleasantly surprised to hear other generations being woven into the conversation in a positive and inclusive manner.
When Lisa Taylor presented Challenge Factory’s findings on longevity and how it will influence the future of work, I just about sprang out of my chair. You could feel the room come alive with the acknowledgement that there are people of all ages who want to play an active role in the labour market. In other words, work is meaningful (and often necessary) to many people at different ages and stages of life. I’m personally looking forward to seeing these discussions continue in the future.
Wellness – is it just talk?
Seven years ago, I attended a wellness session with a group of lovely, highly accomplished, yet overwhelmed women. They spoke of the anxiety they felt as they knew there were going to be a 1,000 emails, all demanding immediate responses, when they returned to the office. I remember thinking that we, career professionals, needed to be talking about how to better manage our own health and wellness so we could demonstrate these things to the very people we serve.
Apparently I wasn’t alone – over the years, this topic has exploded. However, while there were far more sessions on the 2019 Cannexus agenda to address this issue, there’s still a gap between our desired outcome and the reality. While we may talk a good game about stress management, wellness, mental health, etc., I wonder if it’s all just that – talk. Throughout this year’s conference, I connected with people who had to arrive late or leave early because they had to attend to piles of work in their hotel rooms. Everywhere I went – at a keynote, a session, a lunch – there were people working away on laptops or cellphones. Many of us only have a very small window of time (and minimal funds) to engage in professional development. When we’re distracted by work, are we engaged or just ticking a box?
While I think this is a topic we need to continue to discuss and evaluate, I also think there are a lot of things that we’re doing right. Healthier food options, an increase in session options (offering greater flexibility for those who many not be able to attend the full conference), more post-conference networking opportunities, and a variety of spaces to decompress and reflect are just some of the ways that, despite our busy schedules, wellness is being acknowledged as an important part of the Cannexus experience.
Do we dare?
On day one of the 2012 conference, Trey Anthony took to the stage as our keynote speaker and the person who would set the tone for event. Anthony was not a career professional, the head of an academic institution, a researcher or a counsellor. She was, however, an inspiration in getting us to look at our roles in a more creative, energetic and hopeful way. Now, seven years later, are we continuing to encourage boldness and innovation? Yes! Sessions such as “Building Insights and Confidence for Career Development Professionals Using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®” and “You’re Hired: No Resume, Just Resiliency and Skills” provided creative and hopeful solutions. Strategies to increase and enhance diversity, inclusion and resilience will always require the thoughtful sharing of many voices from many different environments. As we move forward, I hope we continue to be open to the ideas, experiences and perspectives of individuals from many different sectors.
At the end of the day, whatever the challenge or solution might be, it’s always inspiring to be surrounded by people who are working hard for the benefit of others. Regardless of background, industry or client base, the spirit of Cannexus is about empowering career professionals to do what they do even better: lift people up. Whether it’s 2012 or 2019, you can’t argue with the awesomeness of that.