CareerLeadershipStudent Affairs

Building Your Professional Network – Conference Style

Okay.  So, ACPA is over. If you went, hopefully, you had a great time meeting old friends, making new connections, and building your professional network. I was not able to attend this year, but followed the conference when I could on the backchannel. #APCA13 was my way of attending and learning about what was making others think and share their thoughts. It was impressive seeing such positive comments about ACPA coming through the backchannel this year. While I was not there, I must give props to Ed Cabellon for doing a great job pumping up the social media and technology of ACPA this year. The session by Tony Doody on Digital Leadership and the technology/social media panel with my friend Tom Ellett also seemed to go very well, having insightful thoughts on shared on Twitter. Congratulations to the each of you for continuing to push these issues at a national level! These are by no means the extent of the excellent sessions; however, they are two of the sessions that I was able to follow in real time.

With ACPA concluded, attention now turns to TPE and NASPA. I will be headed to both of them and am looking forward to many great conversations with old and new colleagues. Are you headed to TPE/NASPA as well? How will you make the most of your search and conference experience? Here are some thoughts to consider.



Are you headed to The Placement Exchange to search for either your first or a new position? If so, you are probably stressed to some level, which is completely natural. You are putting yourself out there and you do not know what the end result of all of your efforts will be. Try some of these ideas to make the most of your experience.

  1. Enjoy yourself. You are going to have the opportunity to learn about many people and many institutions firsthand. Sure you are interviewing, but you are also learning. Take advantage of this experience to ask good questions that will help you make the best decision for you professionally and personally.
  2. Be congruent. Who you are in person during the interview should match who you appear to be in your resume, who you are in social media, and who you are socially.
  3. Pay attention. It is hard interviewing for long hours several days in a row. Your concentration may wane from time to time. Consciously work to be on top of your game. Take water or coffee breaks to re-energize yourself. Schedule them so you do not find yourself overbooking your schedule. Remember to take lunch. You need to eat to maintain your energy.
  4. Be interested. Okay. You are 10 minutes into your interview and you can tell it is not the right fit. What do you do? Remain interested! Ask thoughtful questions, and answer the interviewer’s questions thoroughly. You may see yourself as not a good fit, but several other outcomes could result if you maintain your professionalism. Perhaps it was just that you and the interviewer did not click. If you are invited back for a second interview, the experience might be totally different. The interviewer might also realize the fit is not right, but could serve as a connector for you to another institution. It is important to maintain good relationships with everyone with whom you interview.
  5. Show interest beyond the interview. Are your interviewers or the institution presenting at NASPA? If so, then go to the sessions and reintroduce yourself. It is important to demonstrate your interest in the institutions in which you are most interested.



If you are headed to NASPA, make your plans now to ensure you have a good conference. Below are a few tips.

  1. Make plans in advance. Decide now who you want to meet and reach out to them before you both leave. Ed Cabellon recently wrote about this idea in his blog, as did Becca Obergefell. It is a fantastic idea to take building your professional network seriously and ensuring that you have time blocked off to build these connections.
  2. Use the coffee line (or the AC outlets). The coffee lines or the power outlets are a great place to strike up a conversation with someone you do not know. You could either stare at the battery meter on your phone/tablet or use that time to make a new connection.
  3. Engage in the backchannel. While you are in one session, your colleagues are in others and all sessions are alive with activity in the backchannel. Grab your device and join the conversation on Twitter. If you new to Twitter or afraid to get started, then start small. Share one important part of each session that you attend that had an impact on you. The odds are that someone else will share that thought and connect with you.
  4. Take care of yourself. All day sessions, late nights, modified meal times, and hyper-caffeinated bloodstreams. These all have the potential to disrupt your daily schedule. Remember to take time to keep yourself well. Hit the hotel gym, go for a walk or run, or spend time reading a good book. Do what you need to do to stay focused. #safit
  5. Introduce yourself to presenters. Did a session make an impact on you? Do you have additional questions? Take some time to introduce yourself to the presenters of a session and have a conversation. They just spend an talking about a particular topic. To learn that it had an impact on you is exciting for them. Build this new connection – you never know where it could lead.
  6. Reflect. Your days will be filled as will your thoughts. Take time to reflect on your day, what you have learned, and who you met. Reach out to them to continue the conversation. Twitter can be your best friend for this. Are you someone who reflects better by writing, then write a blog post about what impacted you. If it is about a particular session, share your post with the presenters. It will serve as a conversation starter.


These are just a few thoughts. Be sure to check-out some of the other links in this post for other great ideas. Before you leave, also be sure to look at my other post, Tips for Successful Conference Travel, for some helpful hints. If you will be at #TPE13 and #NASPA13, I hope to connect with you.


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