Give me some aspirin and put me in a dark, silent room. I'm still, yes still, recovering...no not from alcohol, but from overextending my energy into networking my face off at NASPA. Don't get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was a source of renewing commitment and passion for student affairs practice. I attended excellent presentations, keynote speakers, and even met up with the head honcho of StudentAffairs.com to collaborate on an exciting project -more on that in the near future.
But let me tell you something, I have never felt so overwhelmed than attending NASPA as an active job seeker. From day one, I was caught between trying to genuinely connect with other attendees and borderline stalking attendees around the conference center in order to peer at their name tags in desperation to discern who I should talk to. On top of it all, every grad student attendee seemed as though they went through TPE and when I introduced myself to others, the first question they asked, "so how was TPE?". I felt so underprepared, insecure, and like I was losing ground on the job hunt.
I eventually forced myself to go outside where I had a come to Jesus moment with myself and I resolved that a) I need to forget about not attending TPE, b) be present with experience, and c) be OK with the efforts I did make no matter what. For the most part, I can say that I am happy I had that resolve and I think I made out alright. As you know, I posted my top 5 tips last week, so to close, I will recap on my successes and otherwise with them:
5) Use social media to connect with and compliment the speakers
- I found myself on Twitter a lot especially during some of the larger sessions like Wes Moore and Freeman Hrabowski. While I didn't necessarily receive any direct conversations back with the speakers, I found myself obsessively trying to capture inspiration statements, as well as engaging with other attendees who posted to the hashtag #NASPA14. Prior to NASPA, I was more of a social user, but now I'm hooked to use it for information sourcing and building connections. I plan to continue using it during ACPA next week to build more experience and report back.
- I did not really use other social media except for LinkedIN to connect with contacts after the conference.
- Thankfully I was not a horder of sorts with my attempts to get cards, but because I sparingly focused on giving out mine, I was more engaged with those I spoke with and more apt to ask them for a card so I could personally follow up.
- Being in the mid-atlantic region, the #1 question people ask after your name is "what do you do?". This question typically infuriates me beyond description because it's more often than not used to be reductive and condescending. Therefore, I found myself inquiring about how those I chatted with found themselves getting into student affairs work and share my story with them. This was definitely helpful in many cases, one of my favorites of which was with a gentleman who works with second-year retention, so I got to wax philosophies with him for a while on the importance of retention.
- I'm a natural smiling person (at least that what I like to think), so whether or not this actually made a difference, who's to say?
- Obviously networking was my goal and while I didn't come away with any specific goals to brag about, I learned from this experience that you have to be prepared to talk about your own campus' current issues. I found myself talking to a Vice President for Student Affairs at a reception, and he shared with me about his challenges around creating diversity on a campus that isn't diverse. I then proceeded to mention that I recently worked on a project assessing my own institution's implementation of diversity, and he then said, "so tell me about your findings". I nearly tripped up with my answer because it was a group project, and I could only remember certain details, but I faked it through semi-convincingly. However, I know that in the future, I will be more prepared!