Finding Your Breakfast Club

Yesterday’s blog post by Joe Ginese inspired me to think critically about my conference experience. You mean I can’t change all of my bad habits and take hundreds of risks in one day? I definitely have the conference hangover, with my head bursting at the seams fr0m excitement, but it’s not necessarily because of all the great sessions I attended. It’s because of the people I met.

That got me thinking: ACPA was my Breakfast Club this year. Sure, I love comparing my life to 80’s teen movies more than the average student affairs blogger, but hear me out. I was able to meet four amazing student affairs professionals from Twitter who I had never previously met, and they all had a huge impact on me. Just as the burnout, princess, jock, nerd, and basket case from Shermer High School built their connections during detention, I befriended a unique group of student affairs professionals in a short amount of time.  Relationships at a conference are created in an intense environment with few distractions; it’s up to you to maintain them (and not ignore them next year when you’re walking down the hall). Here are my shoutouts, and plans for reconnecting.

The Supporter: Chris Conzen has provided me with encouragement, asked me questions, and gone above and beyond to connect with me.  If I’m ever questioning my job trajectory or looking for advice about moving around in the field, Chris will be my go-to person.

The Jersey Girl: Valerie Heruska and I connected over completely random things like diners, Jimmy Eat World, and New Jersey pop culture. After dinner together, I know I can talk to her about anything and I’ll be cracking up in the process.

The Newbie: Francesca Catalano and I went into our ACPA adventures together as relatively new to the Twitter world, but we took risks together and bonded over that experience.  If I’m ever feeling unsure or anxious about a blog post (or anything really), I know Francesca will be there for me, judgment-free and understanding.

The Role Model: Josie Ahlquist showed me that I can do something different with my student affairs career, and I shouldn’t be afraid to take something and make it my own.  Her openness to sharing her experience while pursuing a doctorate put me completely at ease about taking that step in my career.

It can be beneficial to engage a variety of strategies to stay connected with my new Breakfast Club. It’s important for you to understand the best way to communicate with your new connections, so ask first. Here are some general tips to get you started:

Social media: Is Twitter their jam? Publicly tweeting back can help keep up the relationship, but it doesn’t get you quite as far as a direct message. I’ve found that Facebook friending takes you further as well, especially with the more personal details being shared beyond 140 characters.  If digging deeper personally isn’t the right move, then LinkedIn can be a great way to learn more about them professionally.

E-Mail: Did you meet your new contact at a session and exchange business cards? Don’t let them sit unused in your nametag pouch or at the bottom of your bag. E-mail them now! Reach out with a specific question or connection to keep the conversation going.

Google Hangout: I love Tim St. John’s idea to road trip via Google Hangout. It’s free and gets you face-to-face time with your new connections. Schedule a lunchtime chat or maybe set aside an evening to delve deeper. If face-to-face isn’t your thing, a phone call can do the trick as well.

In response to Simple Minds’ question, “As I walk on by, will you call my name?” I can safely say the answer is yes. It just takes some long term effort that follows the conference afterglow.  Now that you’ve learned about my connections at ACPA, I’d like to know: who have you met and connected with in your recent conference travels? Who would be in your Breakfast Club?