I recently returned from the whirlwind ACPA Midwest Regional Conference in Kansas City.  What I learned most was not just the importance of networking or why it's valuable to present at conferences, but why it's important to invest in yourself.

Yes, I made some new contacts outside of career services at a variety of institutions.  Yes, I presented as part of a panel to graduate students on finding your institutional fit.  One of the sessions at the conference even discussed using your top 5 from StrengthsQuest to answer 7 common interview questions which was very interesting and served as a big takeaway for my work with students.

However, the one that stuck out most (for various reasons) was the session on soft skills.  We've seen the NACE survey detailing the top transferable skills for which employers are seeking, but how are we helping students refine and develop those skills?  The Class of 2016 believes it is "career ready" and the NACE Career Readiness Competencies directly address the top 10-12 skills.   But numerous reports state these are still areas of development for our students.  Encourage students to join organizations or volunteer their time in the local community.  What better way to see leadership, teamwork, and communication skills in action?!

Most importantly, are we refining those skills in ourselves and demonstrating them to students?  When was the last time you pitched a new idea at work or took the initiative to make a change to meet this generation (or the incoming generation) of students you serve?  When was the last time you took your own advice to join a new organization, participate in a leadership institute, or attended a presentation more out of personal interest rather than what you could take back and use in your position?

I took time at this conference to attend sessions both of interest to me and out of pure curiosity.  Through both types of sessions I found something that I can either work on personally or take back to use in the office.  And I encourage you to do the same--if not now, the FLSA changes in December will definitely provide some of us with time to spend on us 🙂