How to Make the Most of the 2013 AIChE Annual Student Conference

by Sarah Ewing

The 2013 AIChE Annual Student Conference is fast approaching, and many students are most likely getting excited about spending time with their fellow AIChE classmates in San Francisco and watching the ChemE Car competition. However, many students may not be aware of how to take full advantage of the networking opportunities present at the conference. The AIChE Annual Student Conference is one of the best opportunities for networking since you will have national and international AIChE members at the same event, and will have a rare opportunity to make connections in person.

A professional network is one of the most important tools in any career, and the AIChE Student Conference is a fantastic opportunity to start to build this network. Although the concept of networking may seem a little stressful, all it takes is a little preparation and goal setting.

Prepare and set goals

To prepare, bring copies of your business cards, or at the very least a pen and paper to use to exchange contact information with people that you meet at the conference. Also, I would suggest bringing copies of your resume and cover letter, just in case you get asked!

To find networking opportunities that are best suited to your interests, take a look at the agenda beforehand and get a general idea of the workshops or networking mixers. There is nothing worse than hearing about a great event afterwards. If there are any keynote speakers or workshops presenters that you know you would like to get in touch with, look them up on LinkedIn and think of a good conversation starter. For example, if you notice that one of the speakers works for your dream company, make note of that. That way if you get a chance to speak to them at the conference, you can ask for tips on getting your foot in the door with that organization.

If you plan on attending the recruitment fair or networking with any sponsoring companies, make sure to research the company beforehand! I cannot stress this tip enough. A career fair is not the time to ask the recruiter "So, what do you guys do?" Do your research and think of questions to ask about a specific job that is posted, or about a new product that company is launching.

Putting goals into action

Once you arrive prepared in San Francisco, you just have to put your goal into action. You may want to make it a goal to exchange contact info with three new people each day. Between all the networking mixers and social events, this is definitely an achievable goal. Don't be afraid to start conversations with students outside your own school. Another great opportunity to do some great networking is at the Student Workshops hosted by the AIChE Young Professionals, who are eager to help students succeed and grow in chemical engineering. Sessions will have plenty of time for Q&A, so be prepared to speak up and get involved! Bonus points if you get contact information from one of the speakers and can add them on LinkedIn later! Also, if you want more networking tips, be sure to attend the "Step Away from the Job Boards" session, which will provide plenty of ideas.

The weekend will be packed with events, so remember that you only have one weekend to network with AIChE Members from across the country and the world. There will, of course, be time for social activities and fun with friends, but keep your eye on your networking goals, and remember that you can hang out with friends any time. Good luck, happy networking, and enjoy San Francisco!