Dusting my office and filling the candy jar this morning to get ready for a new junior intake meeting, I saw a large stack of spiral notebooks from a decade of IECA meetings. These notebooks chart my journey since 2003 to become an expert independent educational consultant (IEC). I pulled down my notebook from 2004 and found my detailed notes from “Principles and Practices,” which we now call the IECA Summer Training Institute (STI). I sat down on my just-fluffed couch to see what I was thinking about in 2004 when I was a newbie, hungry for knowledge about our profession wherever I could find it.
I felt inspired once again as I re-read notes from Steve Antonoff‘s opening session, “The World of Educational Consulting.” He spoke about the need for students to have mentors and our obligation to make ourselves into the next set of experts for educational planning. As students of colleges, our main enemy would be lack of knowledge about right fit campuses for our students as we embark on this profession. Steve underscored that our future clients were hiring an individual, not a service; he called upon us to become not just experts but to see ourselves as members of a caring profession. Wow!! How true that remains nine years later. It sounds basic but it means taking time to listen to students and families, providing them with a way to cope with the stress and anxiety of the college application process.
My notes from Mark Sklarow’s presentation emphasized that our clients pay us to give them advice, not to make their decisions for them. We use our knowledge of schools and our clients to create a list of schools to visit; after countless visits to all sorts of different campuses, we translate our knowledge of campus cultures to meet the individual needs and aspirations of each client. Mark advised us to make good use of the line, “let me double check for you.” We don’t need to know all the answers right away, but we do need to know how to research, find, and deliver them.
After teaching modules and certificate courses on business practices for IECs at STI and UC Irvine, I see more than ever the need to approach our job straightforwardly with honesty and authenticity. We can easily cloud our mission as we cope with a too-anxious family or parents’ confusion over reasonable expectations about what IECs do – and don’t do. For seasoned IECA members, sit down and review your old notebooks; let’s renew ourselves by revisiting the lessons we first learned. For new, budding IECs, absorb the basics. Moving into the future with iPad in hand, I will always treasure my handwritten notes on Steve’s presentation or reproduce the wisdom of Mark’s “fold the ends of the toilet paper lesson,” as I continue to fill my IEC backpack of knowledge.