MNEA Week: Leah Hakkola on Making the Most out of Networking

Hello fellow evaluators!  My name is Leah Hakkola and I am pursuing a doctoral degree in organizational leadership, policy and development at the University of Minnesota. After attending AEA for the first time last year, I have some tips I would like share with you to improve your experience in 2013.

Hot Tip 1: Go to sessions, but don’t forget to network too!

First off, I was very impressed with the high level of civility and expertise I experienced from conference presenters, organizers and attendees.  Being that this was my first time attending the conference, I wanted to dive right in and participate as much as possible.  I found after the first day that networking with evaluators was just as important as attending the organized sessions and workshops.  As exhausted as I felt on the first night, I was also exhilarated by all the new connections I had made and knowledge I had learned.  I would encourage everyone to take full advantage of the workshops, but to also leave time for networking too.  It is definitely worth the time and energy.

Hot Tip 2: Go to the TIG Events

One aspect of the conference that I particularly enjoyed was related to the topical interest group (TIG) events.  In particular, I enjoyed attending a TIG mentorship luncheon where I was able to meet with seasoned evaluators who knew the ropes and provided a broad range of experience, advice, and wisdom.  This activity was especially engaging for me as I embark on the beginning of a life-long career as an evaluator who is also interested in equity and diversity.  The graduate student TIG meeting was incredibly helpful as well, in that I was able to meet with students who were in school too.  The relationships I’ve built with fellow students has been great for collaboration, support and camaraderie.  Both TIG events were extremely useful and I would strongly recommend that everyone take full advantage of the TIG happenings!

Hot Tip 3: Collect Other People’s Business Cards (and write notes on them)

I wouldn’t be surprised if you have already been told to bring a wallet full of business cards to help connect with people.  My advice goes one step beyond that great suggestion; throughout AEA I met a handful of evaluators, new students, and professors that I wanted to connect with afterward.  Unfortunately, I had collected so many cards that I forgot who I met when, where and for what purpose.  Hence, my advice is to write on the back of cards you receive from new contacts.  It’s a great way to remember who they are, and when responding to them you have a good opening line to an email.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Minnesota Evaluation Association (MN EA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the MNEA AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MNEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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