Helpful Tips for Attending Your First Conference
By Joe Santacroce, Salem State University, Assistant Director, Career Services
Are you attending the EACE annual conference for the first time? EACE has been a major contributor to my professional growth and this year I will be attending my fifth conference. Here are some helpful tips that I hope will enhance your experience:
The conference is always a great opportunity to connect with professionals in your field. Whether you are searching for innovative ideas to bring back to your current role or looking to take the next step in your career, utilize your time at the conference to network with those who can help you.
Since attending my first EACE conference in 2014, my professional network has continued to expand. Conversations and connections have led to sharing of best practices with new programs, informational conversations around resources, and simply brainstorming new ideas.
SHARE BEST PRACTICES
Share your thoughts with others and discuss what you do well! This is important as I found myself not only learning during sessions, but also sharing what I do well in my work. Talk about different programs you are running or helpful resources you are using. Other attendees may want to follow-up to see how you have implemented these ideas.
You’ll hear this often throughout the conference but consider getting involved. EACE creates a welcoming environment and from that comes opportunity. Get involved by volunteering for a committee or attending an event during the year. Many times, your involvement can lead to a more robust skill set. I recently joined the conference marketing committee and the experience has helped me to develop skills in an area that, previously, I had little experience.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Check out the sessions that are being offered and plan your schedule accordingly. Challenge yourself to attend one (or more) sessions that will allow you think outside the box and generate new ideas.
During my first conference in 2014, I attended a session about sales. The session sounded interesting, but more than anything, I was curious about the topic. The experience was worthwhile as it ended up being one of the best sessions I have ever attended at any conference. Although the topic was not focused on higher education, the information that I took away was helpful for how I could develop my approach to introducing new ideas and programs.
To top it off, I recently worked with a graduating senior who was preparing for an interview in pharmaceutical sales. I was able to share my notes from this session which in turn helped the student prepare for the interview. At graduation, the student informed me that she received an offer for the position! You never know when your curiosity will lead to useful information.
While the conference allows many opportunities for learning, there is also time to unwind and have fun. Find others to share a meal, attend the early morning energizer or the activities during entertainment night. This can help to develop new professional relationships in a casual, relaxed atmosphere.
Joe has over 10 years of experience in career services. He currently works as an Assistant Director in the office of Career Services at Salem State University. With a passion for counseling students one on one in all phases of career development, Joe also teaches a 1-credit career development course that introduces students to career topics. He holds a MEd with a focus in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University and a BA in History from Salem State College.