The Beauty of an Intentional Career Plan

Union University’s Dr. Colene Trent Addresses Chamber’s Women’s Leadership Network

The Collierville Chamber of Commerce hosted its end-of-summer Women’s Leadership Network meeting on August 24 at Ridgeway Country Club. Union University Associate Professor of Economics, Dr. Colene Trent, presented the day’s featured talk. Dr. Trent also serves as the Executive Director of the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Competition.

Prior to Trent’s remarks, Dr. Mary McDonald, founder and CEO of MCD Partners, an educational consulting firm, informed the group about the upcoming Ascend Regional Business Summit to be held November 7 at the Hilton Memphis. The summit will entail a day of informative panel discussions featuring proven business leaders and a keynote address by Bill Courtney, author, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker and Founder & CEO of Classic American Hardwoods. More information about that event can be found here.

Alexis Heinz of Patriot Bank Mortgage, the presenting sponsor of the Women’s Leadership Network meetings for the past two years, introduced Dr. Trent and presented a brief bio of the professor, including both her rise to the position of Associate Professor of Economics and Executive Director of the Miss Tennessee organization.

Laughing as she described herself as a recovering people-pleaser, Trent outlined a four-point plan to help people pursue an intentional career plan, the same model she uses when counseling college students. She encouraged the crowd to embrace such a determined plan for their career path. Confessing that she didn’t have such a model herself, she added that it just seemed that this model did fit her life.

First, she suggested that a key factor entailed finding something that you are passionate about, something “that gets you up in the morning.” As she worked her way through each point, Trent offered examples from her own life and recalled her childhood dreams of becoming Miss America. Such a dream, she said, led her to pursue good grades.

Secondly, personal abilities should be a guidepost. Alluding to that dream of Miss America stardom, she recalls recognizing the need to harness public speaking skills if she were to enter pageant. The realization led her to 4-H speaking contests, where she excelled. It might be added here that 4-H speaking contests were just the beginning, as Trent excelled in pageants and claimed some $50,000 in scholarship money through her pageant years. She was twice runner-up to Miss Alabama.

A devout Christian, Trent suggested that understanding “how you were created with God-given talents” and what those talents were, should provide yet another component of your plan.

To complete the four-point model, Trent offered the need to understand how your life experiences had shaped you and what they had provided.

Using her personal story throughout her remarks, Trent allowed the group a glimpse into her own struggles – from the financial insecurity she and her family faced in a lower-middle class situation to the stress of the academic rigors as she pursued the upper echelons of academia and a Ph.D. in the demanding discipline of economics. Trent recalled the days of anxiety, depression and panic attacks that came from the experience. She added, as a personal note, the sadness she encountered when her father took his own life.

But, forward to the present, Trent looks back on those days with an appreciation of both the struggle and the fulfillment she now acknowledges with the satisfaction of her career, the ability to help motivate and counsel students and the opportunity to take her own story to community groups such as the day’s meeting. Now at Union University for ten years, Trent has found her home, and she finds her greatest satisfaction in her family life, with Christian singer-songwriter and faith leader husband David and their two young children.

Looking back on her childhood dreams of Miss America and her current position as Associate Professor of Economics, she stated, “You can like sparkly things, while still achieving great things.”