One of the things I enjoy most about working in student affairs is that everybody wants you to keep growing and learning. Every school I’ve worked at has had a professional development fund, but they’ve varied in size from place to place. Some schools want you to go to every single conference, no matter how far, and they will buy you every single book you want. Others force you to make choices.
Being at a small school, I’m in the latter category. While sometimes it sucks to hear my friends saying things like, “Gosh, I can’t decide between NASPA and ACPA”, I’m happy that I am doing less as a new professional with the hopes of that when I advance I will have more opportunities. Besides, if my office is down anybody for a week, that puts a lot on the people who stay behind.
Earlier this year I was able to attend two regional conferences. I am definitely not heading to Orlando or Vegas this year, but I do hope to attend some more local conferences. Why are local conferences awesome? Well, first off it cuts down on costs for you and/or your office since you probably don’t have to fly there and, if you’re real lucky, it might be close enough that you don’t have to stay in a hotel. Also, all the other attendees of a region-based conference live and work somewhere near you. It’s a great way to make connections with colleagues at other schools. I did meet a bunch of people at one of the conferences I went to…but I also suck at keeping in touch. Since it is one of my 2013 goals, I think I might reach out to them. Sometime. Soon. Ish.
But Author, my office doesn’t even have enough money to send me to a local conference! It’s okay. You don’t NEED to go to a conference. You can connect with other professionals in many ways. The internet is an AMAZING thing, especially social media. Yes, Facebook and Twitter can be big time wasters, but they can also help you professionally. Every week there is a discussion about some student affairs topic using the hashtag #SAChat. It usually happens at a designated time, but you can post anything at any time with that hashtag and people will still see it. I know there is also a #GreekChat one. If you know any others, leave them in the comments!
Blogging has also been a great way to get in contact with other student affairs professionals. I honestly don’t know why I chose WordPress over Blogger or any other service, but one think I really like is the ability to follow “topics” on your reader page. I can click on “Student Affairs” or “Higher Ed” and read about all sorts of things and find new blogs to follow. I also have some other topics on there, like “Organization”.
If you want to go all old school, you can do what people used to do forty years ago – get a book! (Although now you’d probably order it off Amazon…) If there is something you are interested in learning more about, look online for books about the topic. I have a running list of books I want to read (another 2013 goal) and all I have to do is find them…and find the time to read them. You might not even have to purchase the book. Check your school’s library or interlibrary loan options. If you do have to purchase a book, ask your supervisor if it is something professional development funds can be used for. A book is not a huge expense and depending on the topic, it might be something the whole office can use.
One last thing – don’t be afraid to ask! You never know what your supervisor might say yes to. If you feel your department’s professional development funds are rather limited, you can tell your supervisor that you feel _____ opportunity would be really beneficial and try to budget for it at a later time.
In the comments, leave your favorite hashtags/chats, books, blogs, and conferences!