Mentorship and networking at conferences: Advice from the Student Advisory Board

Student Advisory Board members share advice they have received about mentors and networking. 

By Jackie Lennon

Advice from Mentors

Conferences are an excellent place to network with fellow students and professionals who share your interests. This past April, SPPAC offered numerous opportunities to do just this, such as the annual mentoring luncheon, which included 150 students/interns/early career professionals and 30 mentors. The event was a huge success and continues to be a highlight for mentees, as it provides the opportunity for face time and question asking with the leading scholars and clinicians in the field. Mentors enjoy themselves, too, as they get to directly offer guidance to the next cohort of leaders.

In effort to share some of the excellent advice provided by the mentors, I asked fellow Student Advisory Board members to share what they took away from the luncheon. Here are a few highlights of what they said:

  • Mentors emphasized the importance of having f lexibility in your career trajectory and walking through doors when they are open, even if you are not necessarily searching for that opportunity.
  • Mentors spoke about taking advantage of the versatility of our training. Many of us are well-qualified for a variety of positions, and there is often a way to highlight your experience in order to secure a position you desire.
  • Mentors said they have mentors, too. Mentoring relationships do not end once you are no longer a student. In fact, receiving mentorship throughout your career is essential for ensuring your growth as a professional.

Tips for Networking at Conferences

I also asked fellow Student Advisory Board Members to share their best tips for how to effectively network while at conferences. Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Attend presentations that interest you, and don’t be afraid to approach the speakers afterwards to ask questions.
  • Attend poster sessions. It’s an easy way to strike up a conversation with those who have similar interests to you.
  • Ask your primary supervisor/mentor to introduce you to someone you really want to meet. They can help facilitate that first interaction. Or, ask a fellow student if they will introduce you to their supervisor/mentor.
  • Connect with alumni. Chatting about your program can be a great ice breaker.
  • Get involved with special interest groups (SIGs). You will meet others with similar interests, and some SIGs host activities specifically to facilitate networking.
  • If you have a chance to volunteer, take it. It’s an easy way to be visible and meet lots of people.
  • Make sure you allow for down time in your conference schedule. Being “on” all the time can be tiring. Taking time to yourself will ensure that you come across as composed and articulate and will keep you from getting that dreaded conference burnout.

Put those Tips to the Test at this Year’s APA Convention

The Annual APA Convention in Toronto this August will offer plenty of opportunities to network and meet potential mentors. Highlights for students include speed mentoring, Internships on Parade, a Q&A session with current interns and a student social co-hosted with Divs. 16, 27 and 53.

Please contact me with questions and comments.