As a veteran college counselor who has worked in four international schools over the past 27 years, I can say without a doubt that the opportunity to attend a vast array of conferences has positively impacted my career.
Imagine your first time as you nervously sit down in the auditorium, perhaps an opening session, and, not knowing anyone, you lean over to your neighbor and shyly say, “Hi, my name is Bridget and I live and work in Bangladesh.” At that moment, you begin to weave a fine net of connections that will only strengthen over time. But it takes work!
At every opportunity, I try to reach out to someone new. This might be in the coffee line, sitting next to someone during an educational session, or just walking to the venue when you see scads of people wearing the same name tags. There is potential everywhere to make important connections when at a conference.
Introductions are just the beginning. By exchanging business cards, you have opened new avenues, conversations and relationships. You can follow up with emails saying it was a pleasure to meet you and share a bit about your school, if you’d like. Everybody is busy, so brevity is usually appreciated. If I have students applying to the schools of representatives I have met, I will often drop them a line letting them know that a great student from our school has applied. This reinforces that the connection made was important.
Additionally, forging strong relationships with other counselors is paramount. I cannot tell you how many times I have written to those that I met along the way asking for advice, clearing up doubts, and sometimes just venting. Our international community is a welcoming one and I find there is little judgment and only willingness to help.
Before you know it, you will be a presenter at these conferences, standing in front of groups large and small to share your rich experiences, and you will be the one that new counselors write to for advice.
All this said, this will be my first time attending the Annual IC3 Conference. The region is new for me and there will be many professionals I’ve never met. I hope that we will find ourselves next to each other in a session or standing in line for coffee. Count on me to make the first move!