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Volunteering + Networking = Career Traction

August 23, 2010

Here’s a general principle for all students to take note of:  engaging as a volunteer in work that matters to you can pay off tremendously for your career.  Whether it’s an on-campus organization, or an off-campus cause or professional association, if there’s a “world” where you want access, you can get it by being an active, dependable  volunteer, building a track record, and leveraging your involvement to best effect.

Here’s an upcoming opportunity/case study from the world of journalism. This October, the Online News Association (whose simple domain name, www.journalists.org, pretty accurately reflects the organization’s significance in the changing industry) is holding its annual conference in Washington, DC.   If you are interested in building a career in journalism, ONA10 is the place to be, but registration costs are pretty steep for students. If you volunteer before, during or after the conference, however, you can attend a part of the conference for free, learn about trends in the industry and skills you’ll need to know, and shmooze with industry pros. (Note to non-journalists: what are the professional meetings that you might want to attend? Google them now!)

If you’re an SOC student attending the ONA conference, you’ll come  with extra credibility and connections, because of all of the SOC leadership that has gone into making this conference happen. The conference is co-chaired by Professor Amy Eisman and SOC alum/USA Today Interactive Director Joshua Hatch (who also joins SOC as an adjunct professor this semester). The student newsroom is headed up, in part, by Professor Lynne Perri, and has one SOC undergraduate and one SOC grad student among the 21 students from across the country selected to cover the event.

SOC/SPA senior Ethan Klapper will be one of the student newsroom participants, and is excited about the opportunities that this conference, and other entry-points to ONA, offer himself and AU students. “The ONA conference isn’t in DC every year,” says Klapper, suggesting this is a unique moment for students, and he strongly encourages students to volunteer in exchange for registration. Klapper himself has lately voluntereed a good chunk of his time in the coming year to help boost student involvement in ONA: he is working with Professor David Johnson to launch a student chapter of ONA right here at AU, one of only three pilot campus chapters being launched this year. Watch for more from Klapper and the AU ONA chapter in the coming weeks!

In the meantime, says Klapper:  look at the conference; consider volunteering in exchange for free partial registration; join ONA at the low student rate of $25 (which will let you into the Oct. 28th conference Career Summit & Job Fair for free!); and check out the local ONA presence, active year round, that gathers via Meetup.com. “We’re lucky that ONA’s local group is so active,” says Klapper. “It holds regular events, with great programming and networking, and consistently draws large crowds.” And remember, it’s great to attend meetings of any group, but if you come across an opportunity to volunteer and prove your mettle, and you’re able to tackle the job, think seriously about stepping up!

(Opening photo by dotpolka)

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