Early Career Professionals Corner: Getting the Most Out of a Conference

Vaneeta Sandhu, PsyD

APA Convention-goers gather
Convention-goers gather in the museum hallway at the 2012 APA Convention.

There are numerous conferences taking place each year and deciding on the conference to attend, or which to present at, can be challenging. Attending conferences can be particularly important as an ECP as they provide opportunities to meet people and organizations, learn about jobs or other work-related possibilities, initiate and strengthen partnerships or relationships, and generate ideas for research, books, lectures, or other valuable resources. Your attendance also shows support and commitment to the field. For some conferences, you may be there as a representative of health psychology (or psychology in general).

Many ECPs will approach the conference as a rich opportunity to network and will prepare by packing business cards, pamphlets, and any other forms of marketing. Some people are comfortable approaching presenters, whereas for others this is an intimidating task. One way to approach networking is to be curious – ask questions! In general, presenters enjoy speaking about their work (that is why they are there, after all!). Preparing your questions in advance may help you gain confidence in approaching others. You can also take advantage of social hours, poster presentations, and other spaces created to facilitate more discussion.

Before you arrive at the conference, organize yourself. Review the program and keep note of the sessions you want to attend. Always plan for a backup session. Attend the first session you noted; however, if after 15 minutes you are finding it difficult to be engaged or it was not what you thought it would be, you can always leave and attend the second one on your list. Maximize your time! Most conferences have downloadable apps and social media links (e.g., following hashtags) that can help with organization and scheduling.

At the end of the session you attend, make a few notes on what your “takeaway message” is and how you can bring it into your work (or into your personal life!). One of the most fulfilling parts of the experience is teaching others what you learned at the conference; it is always much easier to speak about the subject when it is in our own language and context.

In true health psychology spirit, remember to also be physically active. Your mind is already active, so do not forget about your body! Chances are you will be doing plenty of sitting, so be sure to make time for walks as it will help you focus when needed.

Finally, and most importantly, remember to have fun! Make the most out of this experience by enjoying the content and people around you. If you can be present and enjoy the moment, you will likely learn much more and be open to new ideas and people.

The following are highlights for Division 38 ECPs at the 2014 APA Convention: 

1)   A panel discussion on D38’s branding initiative will focus on the importance of a professional identity as a health psychologist in the age of integrated care. Members of the D38 Branding Task Force will discuss the changes in our definitions in health psychology and how these changes have led to a new “brand” for D38.

2)   The ECP Council is hosting a session titled “Strategies for Becoming a More Efficient and Productive Writer.”

3)   Travis Lovejoy will chair a special poster session sponsored by the Committee on Early Career Psychologists (CECP) entitled “Early Career Activities and Opportunities in Division 38: Health Psychology.”

4)   John Linton and Jared Skillings will present a symposium entitled “ABPP in Clinical Health Psychology: Tips to Make Board Certification as Painless as Possible.”

Please be sure to reference the APA Convention program for dates, times, and locations.

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