This past month myself and other SACES Grad committee members had the pleasure of attending the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) conference in Seattle, WA. If you have never been to the conference, I would highly recommend you attend. It was packed full of CES celebrities from the current president, Dr. Kristopher Goodrich to our very own past SACES Grad Student Rep., Joey Tapia-Fuselier! For those of you that do not know, the ACES conference is the bi-annual gathering of former, present, and future counselor educators from across the nation and even those from around the world. The conference is designed to honor those who have enhanced the field of counselor education, as well as provide a forum for up and coming approaches to counseling, education, and supervision. Additionally, future counselor educators get the opportunity to meet and network with employers and colleagues.
One of the most rewarding experiences for me as an online doctoral student was meeting my colleagues and professors face-to-face. Moreover, I seized each opportunity to meet new people and share my interests in counselor education, as well as the work I do in the field. After taking some time to reflect on my experiences at my first ACES conference, I have discovered three significant decisions that made my experience productive and enjoyable. I would like to offer them as suggestions to first-time conference attendees for the future.
The first is to consider signing-up as a volunteer. I thought about this decision long and hard because I had heard stories about the exhaustion of volunteering at conferences as large as the ACES conference. However, because I was traveling alone, I wanted to set myself up for peer engagement and networking. I must say, my decision paid off in an amazingly unexpected way. I spent hours working the registration floor, directing people to and from classes and getting to know my fellow volunteers. On my first day of volunteering and engaging in conversation about my work and my interests I was offered a teaching position for the Spring term! While I recognize this may not happen to everyone, if you have never attended the conference, are traveling alone, and want to get connected, VOLUNTEER!
The second piece of advice is to remember CES celebrities are people too, so be prepared to engage. I remember attending my first Southern Association of Counselor Education and Supervision (SACES) conference in New Orleans, LA. I ran into Dr. Courtland Lee and was basically speechless! Mind you, I had spent the entire past quarter writing about him, but I was not prepared for him to be so friendly, inviting, and, so, REAL! I wished, in that moment, I had prepared myself to run into CES celebs, because, I realized later, many of the seasoned CES educators and authors get their inspiration from talking with new and future CES educators. If approached, the leaders in the field will gladly engage in scholarly and sometimes casual conversations with you. With that said, this year, I had a similar encounter with Dr. Kristopher Goodrich. I happened to be volunteering on the floor where his room was located and he sat next to me and we began chatting. I was prepared this time and it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime!
Finally, put your best foot forward. First impressions are everything and genuine friendliness goes a long way. Because I made a conscious decision to be courteous and offer a smile to everyone I encountered, the universe rewarded me with interactions and experiences that will change my life forever. Also remember, if you are not yet a counselor educator, these conferences are informal job interviews and it is important to remember that in your presentation of yourself to others. On that note, I’d like to give special recognition to my colleague and fellow blog committee member, Leo Balseiro who wore a suit each day of the conference! It is those types of efforts that let employers, professors, and other colleagues know that you not only take pride in presenting your best self but you respect the work and the prestige of counseling, education, and supervision.
I am looking forward to the next ACES conference in Atlanta, GA in 2021. Whether this will be your first conference or your 12th I hope you consider the three takeaways presented here. Happy holidays to everyone!