Ashleigh D. Coren 2015-01-26 14:53:35
On my flight from Boston to Washington, DC, to attend the Joint Annual Meeting of CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA last August, I decided that afterward I would reflect and write about my first experience at an SAA Annual Meeting. I went with specific objectives: to meet my new SAA mentor, visit the Career Center, and connect with other new professionals like myself. I wore comfortable Crocs on my feet and carried a giant tote bag, a manila folder filled with résumés, and two phone chargers. At the conference, I sat in on a number of meetings for various SAA component groups. The Oral History Section and Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable were two highly enjoyable and informative highlights of my experience. I enjoyed attending sessions, particularly “Lean In: Archival Management and the Gender Dynamics of Leadership,” during which the panel discussed women’s experiences as managers within the archives profession. I also enjoyed hearing outgoing SAA President Danna C. Bell speak during the First Timers’ reception. It was a pleasure to see confident and established archivists be frank about their own experiences within the field, but still provide encouragement to newcomers. After the meeting I asked myself, what conversations do I want to be a part of, and how could I contribute to those conversations? This was largely due to my attending sections and component group meetings. If I decided to be active within SAA, what would that involvement look like? Could I find the time to invest in groups and listservs for subjects outside my own personal and professional interests? Career Center and Connecting with Other Job Seekers The meeting also prompted reflection on the challenges of securing long-term employment after graduate school. As someone who has experienced unemployment, I know firsthand the anxiety and instability that comes with struggling financially. At the meeting, I connected with others who are facing the same challenges. I met a young man in the Career Center who shared his struggles with finding a permanent position, and at the Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable, I sat with two other young professionals who were vocal about their displeasure with the lack of jobs for new graduates. Although the topic was difficult, talking about the issue with others was refreshing, and the meeting provided an unexpected support system for those struggling to find employment. I think it would be highly beneficial if all graduate schools included professional development as an integral part of the curriculum, and to have networks and support systems in place for graduates searching for employment. Tips from a First-Timer Here’s my advice for those attending the meeting for the first time: • Reach out to your professors, mentors, supervisors, and colleagues before the conference and ask for their suggestions on component group meetings or sessions to attend. By reaching out to others, I was able to determine which sessions would be most relevant to my own interests. • If there is someone you’re interested in meeting, contact them before the conference to schedule a meeting; once the conference begins it’s difficult to flag people down. • Go out and explore! Big conferences can be overwhelming, and even short walks help you to relax and regroup. • Most importantly—keep an open mind. My experience at SAA was the most enjoyable when I let go of my expectations and pushed myself to try something new.
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