It is said that we build off those who have come before us, and I believe that is certainly true when looking at the legacies of those who have led our association. Those who have served as president of the American Counseling Association have worked to articulate and bring to life the kind of organization they envisioned. Despite having different leadership styles, experiences and philosophies, they led the association through times of crisis, celebration, challenge and innovation.

While some leaders championed credentialing, human rights or expanding our global presence, others focused on our organization’s financial stability, governance structure or the identity of professional counselors. All our past leaders have contributed to our rich history. Collectively, their actions have helped us to move the profession forward and to do an even better job of preparing professional counselors to meet the needs of clients, students and communities.

How are the legacies of these individuals passed on to those who take up the role of leadership? The growing inclusion of counseling graduate students in the committee and governance structure of ACA is just one example. I have pledged to continue the work that my predecessors began by welcoming, inviting and engaging graduate students in what we do at ACA. This past year, under the guidance of Immediate Past President Patricia Arredondo, we launched the ACA Graduate Student Association, which I very much believe is key to our future endeavors. In essence, we are bringing various generations of counselors together to work on issues facing the profession.

We must continue to include those from various generations in our association work. This diversity is a prerequisite for our organizational survival. An organization with a diverse workforce must position itself so that it can detect and take advantage of changes as they unfold in the environment. In the process of attracting and retaining qualified professionals, examining the workforce through generational diversity has noteworthy implications.

What does generational diversity in the workforce and organizational participation contribute? Challenge, certainly, but also many potential advantages. Research indicates that each generation approaches career and work differently and values certain qualities. Those born before 1946, sometimes called “traditionalists” or the “silent generation,” experienced the Great Depression and World War II. Patriotism was a defining value. Financial security, teamwork, sacrifice and delayed gratification enabled survival. Traditionalists often feel that their careers identify who they are. This generation exhibits a practical outlook, dedicated work ethic and the essential need for organizational structure and possesses strong values of honesty and integrity.

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, value peer competition and thrive on possibilities and change. They are characterized as the “show me generation.” Others are accepted as long as they perform to standard. The boomers’ mindset for personal gratification and growth empowers a work-driven ethic, and they are committed to climbing the ladder of success. They leave a legacy of health and wellness, personal growth and involvement.

Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1977, are characterized by their desire to multitask. They believe in investing in their own development, possess clear goals and prefer managing their own time. Members of this group need continuous feedback to position themselves to adapt to new situations. They value diversity, global thinking and pragmatism. Gen Xers work hard, are very self-reliant and are more team-oriented. They would rather find more efficient ways of doing things to balance work, fun and life responsibilities.

Just starting to enter our workforce are members of Generation Y (also known as echo boomers or the global citizens), born between 1978 and 1995. This generation is the first to come into the digital age. Although not all have access to the Internet, most have a degree of fluency. Imagine the impact of millions of fresh-thinking, energized youth armed with the most powerful tool ever created. This generation is noted for being curious, self-reliant, more focused and globally oriented.

Organizations must find ways to connect the values of each generation. Understanding generational differences can help an organization recruit, develop and retain professionals of all ages. It can also help to promote intergenerational dialogue on topics such as past and current assumptions about issues and their causes, how these issues have been addressed and how to move solutions forward in the coming decades.

I look forward to exploring how to ensure that various generations of counselors continue to come together to work on issues of common concern. I hope you will feel free to communicate with me via e-mail at or by calling 800.347.6647 ext. 232.