by Steph Holton
For Spring Break this year, I did not go to Mexico or Miami or even out to the Oregon coast. Instead, I traveled farther inland to attend a conference where I made better connections with students in my department and networked with professionals in my field across the Pacific Northwest.
I was extremely hesitant to commit to this trip; it meant that I would be doing very anti-Spring Break things like getting up early, wearing professional attire, and because I presented a paper at the conference, putting together slides and stressing over the finer points of my research right up through the end of the week. Honestly though, these were minor factors. My biggest mental roadblock in attending this conference was the dreaded idea of networking. Going up to professionals and introducing myself over and over again, especially in a fairly small community where everyone seems to already have connections, is not only hopelessly daunting, but seems exhausting.
I learned a few things once I arrived at the conference.
First, a lot of professionals are more than willing—excited even—to talk to students, so don’t feel like you’re a pest if you go up and introduce yourself. If that idea truly wigs you out, go to a talk or a panel by a professional you want to connect with and email them after the conference, mentioning that you’re interested in their research. We live in a world of digital networking, after all.
Second, don’t discount your student connections. In the not too distant future, we are going to be each other’s network, and the best thing I got from this Spring Break was better relationships with the other students in my department.
And third, put yourself out there. Like I said, I didn’t really want to go to this conference at first, but I knew it was a great opportunity. When I went the extra step and contributed to the conference as well, I gained not only connections but added to my own professional experience.
A few of my fellow Anthropology Student Association members and me at the top of Table Rock overlooking Boise, ID after the Northwest Anthropological Conference.