Posts Tagged ‘NAFSA’

Final thoughts on NAFSA

Friday, June 5th, 2009

A few last thoughts and then I think I’m done discussing last week’s NAFSA conference:

—The Irish universities reception was tamer than I expected (it’s apparently gotten pretty out of hand in the past) but was still a great time—how couldn’t it be with all you can drink Guinness, roving plates of corn beef quesidillas, and lots of happy Irish people?

—I didn’t go through nearly as many business cards as I thought I would (I was actually embarrassed at the number I brought and then had left at the end of the week). I don’t know if this is a result of exaggeration on the part of those who told me to bring a huge stack, or my general crappiness as a flesh-pressing, business-card-flinging networker.

—I saw zero celebrities in downtown LA (even before the Lakers game). I thought I saw Tom Colicchio once, but turned out it was just some bald guy.

—NAFSA is a great resource for career seekers in international education and exchange. Membership and attending both the national and regional conferences are incredibly valuable ways, I’m now convinced, of meeting people in the field and seeing the vast number of international career opportunities that exist (though I recognize that both membership and conferences are expensive). At the very least, though, take advantage of the NAFSA Career Center—it’s free and packed with good stuff.

Should I stay or should I go now? ctd.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

One of the many sessions I attended at the NAFSA conference was “The Young and the Restless,” a panel of young professionals discussing issues of being a young professional in international education. A rundown of a few worthwhile points from the session:

  • Establish a network of peers and mentors: this is not only beneficial for your career but also helps keep you from reinforcing a negative stereotype of millenials as know-it-alls
  • A sense of entitlement about salary will get you nowhere—”it will take you awhile to get to a decent salary in this field,” said one presenter. I agree with both of these points (unfortunately the latter is often true), but I also cringe when I hear them, as I worry that they reinforce the perception that, when you’re working in these fields (and especially for nonprofits), you’re obligated to accept the salary that’s offered, no matter how pitiful. While none of us are in this work to get rich, I would argue (and have argued, actually) that you still have every right to lobby for yourself when it comes to suitable compensation.
  • Get involved with NAFSA and other professional development opportunities. (If this NAFSA conference was any indication, associations definitely give you access to an overwhelming world of contacts and organizations and career possibilities.)
  • Multiple and diverse international experiences will give you an advantage. (Although as one presenter also noted, “‘I studied abroad and loved it!’ isn’t enough to get you a job.”)
  • Get a grad degree. (Sherry’s and my take on the necessity of getting an MA a few graphs down in this post.)

Finally, there was a lengthy discussion of “job jumping,” a conversation that’s been had here before as well. The panel brought up an ever present question for young professionals: “How long do I need to stay in any particular job?” One slightly older man in the audience made the comment that it’s better to pass up an opportunity to move to a new job in order to stay in a place 3-4 years so you’re not perceived as a job jumper. I found this to be overly simplistic and was moved to chime in with another perspective: if you’re languishing in a job that you don’t like, aren’t learning anything from, and don’t see going anywhere, there’s no reason to stay for longer just because, especially if you have a better opportunity where you can learn and move forward.

But as my friend and former grad school classmate Susie said, “Of course it all depends”—on the particular timing, the particular jobs, the particulars of your life. I like her overall assesment, though: “Sometimes you have to go with your gut and seize those open door opportunities when you find them, even if it seems risky.”

The key to winning a Nobel prize is to have no idea what you’re doing

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Muhammad Yunus is a charming man. As the keynote speaker at the NAFSA opening plenary today, the Nobel Peace laureate admitted that “the one reason I could create Grameen Bank is because I knew nothing about banking…I could do things others couldn’t even think of.” When those who were working with him mentioned that what he had tasked of them they had no previous experience with, Yunus brushed away their concerns: “If you know it, you can’t do it.” Like I said, charming.

If I’m permitted to stretch just a touch, these remarks remind me of something I feel very strongly about when it comes to determining the future course of your career: go with your gut. You can’t possibly plan it all out, so why even try? Instead, pursue those things to which you are intractably drawn, and then see where it all leads you.

One other tidbit from Yunus’ talk, for recording now and for reflection later: in describing the model for Grameen Bank, Yunus drew a distinction between “charity dollar” and “social business dollar.” The charity dollar, he said, is one that goes and never comes back. The social business dollar, however, goes and comes back and has an endless life and, if used right, can become an institution. I wonder how this insight relates to the very deep discussion that’s been going on RE: international volunteering, voluntourism, and the merits of a volunteer paying for his or her volunteer experience. It’s too late to figure out now, but even my tired mind tells me there is at least some connection….

And one last thing: I would throw up some pictures of the conference proceedings, but my old, busted camera isn’t allowing me to download for some reason. So if forced to describe the scene in words, the late hour compels me to do so in only one: big. The plenary session hall in which Yunus spoke was like an airplane hangar; the exhibit hall has more buttons and fishbowls of candy than one should ever see in a lifetime (browse the list of exhibitors for a who’s-who of international education, exchange, and study abroad organizations); and the outdoor “LA Live!” opening reception was like a massive block party for which everyone was issued matching name badges and tote bags.

A blockbuster event in the City of Angels

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Question: if you’re at the Staples Center in LA this week and run into flocks of beautiful, famous people, are they attending: a) Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Lakers v. Nuggets, b) the NAFSA 2009 Annual Conference & Expo, c) WWE Smackdown, or d) a Dane Cook show?

Yes! B is correct (at least for the purposes of this post): the NAFSA annual conference, off to which I am headed in just a few hours! NAFSA is the largest gathering of the international education and exchange field each year, drawing anywhere from 8,000-10,000 participants. I’m a NAFSA newbie, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect, though I’m told that the exhibit halls are just absurdly huge, that I should bring more business cards than I possibly think I could go through in a week, and that the Wednesday night reception sponsored by the Irish universities association gets pretty ridiculous.

Not sure what the status of blogging will be throughout the week, but I’ll definitely jump on for at least a few links/thoughts, and hopefully provide some updates and photos from the conference. I’m also hoping that the other three above events, all of which are taking place at the same time NAFSA is underway, will result in some legit celebrity sightings, better than the kind that happen in DC where our idea of seeing someone famous is running into John King on the Metro (though I do love his Magic Wall).

Happy Memorial Day.