This week marks my 5th ACPA Convention, which is a remarkable fact to consider. I recall sleeping 6 graduate students in a 4-person room just 4 years ago in Baltimore as we were trying to break into the field while spending pennies on the dollar to attend our first conference. Three-and-a-half years after arriving in Tacoma, WA, for my first job at the UW Tacoma I have graduated to my own bed (with a roommate, of course) and a Directorate member of the Commission for Career Services in ACPA.
While I don’t consider myself an expert in conference attendance, I do know that I have thought critically about my experience at conferences and spend my time well as a result. My networking skills have helped me to develop relationships with colleagues around the country who have made me more of a leader in our profession than I thought I could be at this point in my career.
Here are a few tips for making the most of your ACPA experience this year:
- Prepare a schedule
Take a look at the schedule online or via the convention’s app prior to arrival. Bookmark the sessions that are of interest and schedule the ones you do not want to miss. Understand the educational areas where you’d like to find the most growth and pick sessions that will contribute.CelebrACPA and the newly-created GeoSocial should provide opportunities for large-scale built-in networking while getting involved with Commissions or Standing Committees will allow for more micro-level interactions.
- Get involved!
I cannot stress enough how important it was for me to attend events with the Commission for Career Services during my first ACPA convention. My internships supervisor from Carnegie Mellon University invited me to join the Commission for Career Services’ early arrivals dinner and open business meeting, which plugged me right into the most important professional network I have still to this day. These career services veterans welcomed newcomers with open arms.Commissions and committees love for people to get involved whether they are graduate students, new professionals, mid-career, or not even currently working in their specific functional area. There are always ways to be involved; whether jumping into an existing opportunity or creating a new one!
- Leave time to socialize
Some of the best conversations and bonding experiences I’ve had have been over food or drinks. Some of us know we’ll want to spend time with certain people and some of us may be going without knowing a soul. Either way, opportunities to share meals, drinks, or coffee will come up, so try to leave time for flexibility. You never know when you will meet someone with whom you’d love to share one of these memorable conversations.
Whether you are following-up on a topic or with a professional colleague you have just met, always leave time to reflect upon returning to campus. As I have said before, my professional contacts from ACPA have been catalysts for my career to this point, so make sure to keep those flames burning.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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