Making the most of your professional conference

George S. McClellan is writing about student affairs conferences in this excerpt from The Chronicle of Higher Education, but he could be discussing conferences in any field.  I've known several colleagues who owe their current jobs to connections made at ACHE and TACHE. And Winter Session, the successful major initiative our Summer School Office started this year, came about from exposure to the idea at national conferences.  I first started thinking about at the NAASS conference I attended in (cough) Maui.  It's still a tough job but someone has to do it.

The Conference Season in Student Affairs
Attending a conference is, of course, an important part of professional development. But with many institutions still in the grip of budget woes, people in student affairs (and throughout higher education) are lately finding their opportunities for conference-going to be few and far between. So it is more important than ever for those fortunate enough to attend a conference to get the most out of the experience.

Conferences are an important source of new information, varying perspectives, and promising practices in our field. They can be valuable in helping you to build a network of professionals who can be a source of advice, information, and support—and who can alert you to job openings. And time spent away from the office, but with others who share an understanding of our work, can go a long way in helping to renew your commitment to your professional life.

Before you go to a conference, it's helpful to identify some broad goals. Are you hoping to gain greater depth of knowledge in your particular area of practice? Increase your knowledge in new areas? Identify colleagues with whom to network? Identify new professional opportunities and folks who can help you pursue them?

A variety of factors (among them, money, scheduling, and the perspective of your supervisor) may affect your choice of conference. An important question to consider is whether you hope to pursue depth of knowledge and wider networks, or greater breadth.

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