Design a Good Virtual Experience for Student and Early-Career Attendees

While students have often attended in-person association meetings to build their networks and find job leads, the pandemic uprooted those face-to-face opportunities. But associations are still finding ways to provide mentoring and career advice to college students and early-career professionals virtually.

In-person association meetings often featured career centers and other networking and mentoring events for student attendees to help them make connections and find job leads. But with the pandemic severely limiting these opportunities, students are eager to make industry connections and get career support virtually.

Lucky for them, associations haven’t paused their efforts to offering mentoring, networking, and other learning opportunities to college students or early-career professionals at virtual conferences. Here’s a look at how several groups have done it.

Pre-conference workshop. Back in March, the American PsychoPathological Association hosted a half-day workshop ahead of its virtual annual meeting to give students, fellows, trainees, and faculty from universities and other organizations a chance to meet and get to know each other. Faculty members briefly presented on the training program offered at their own university, followed by a 15-minute presentation by one of their fellows or trainees speaking about their own work. After questions and discussion, a virtual networking opportunity at the end of the afternoon gave participants a chance to interact informally. According to APPA, “the connections made at past workshops have sometimes led to positions or fellowships for junior scientists and to new research collaborations.”

Coffee talk. Even though this year’s annual meeting was virtual, NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation still made sure the always popular “Take a Student to Coffee” event took place. Industry professionals signed up to meet with a student over Zoom for an hour and answer questions about the industry, provide career advice, and help them make connections.

Career support conference. To offset “pandemic learning losses,” the Television Academy Foundation (TAF) held its first College Television Summit this month to provide professional development and career support to college media arts students nationwide. The free, three-day virtual summit featured 10 online forums with top Hollywood producers, executives, and advisors giving students enrolled in media programs at two- and four-year colleges an insider’s guide to television careers. The first 90 registrants also attended virtual networking meetings with prominent television professionals, many of whom are foundation alumni. TAF is not the only group to host a student-focused event: The American Statistical Association offered something similar with Virtual StatFest in December 2020.

Quick-hit mentoring appointments. For its upcoming 2021 Virtual Textbook and Academic Authoring Conference, the Textbook and Academic Authors Association is giving student attendees the opportunity to sign up for 15-minute mentoring sessions with more experienced members. Topics will include how to market their work, improving productivity, and the ins and outs of author royalties.

Since the start of the pandemic, what opportunities or programming have you offered student attendees at your virtual events? Please share in the comments.

(Chaosamran_Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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