GHC 2015 with Carly Moss: 8 Things NOT to Do at Grace Hopper
Don’t wait until the last minute
Since Grace Hopper is probably happening in the midst of either an academic semester or a co-op, you’ll probably be really busy leading up to the event. That’s fine, just make sure you make time to prepare for the conference. Look at the schedule and see what sessions you want to go to. Are you going to go to the career fair? Is your resume up to date? Any typos? A good time to start thinking about this is at least a week before the conference…not the night before. Do you have a portfolio website or a github account with examples of code you’ve written? When was the last time you updated it? You don’t want to hand your resume to someone with your website/github listed on there and have to say “there’s a link to my portfolio, but it’s not updated” (I may have said this at the conference. For shame, me). Once you’ve figured out how you can prepare your own, materials best for networking, take a look at the Grace Hopper website and see what companies are going to be there. If you’re looking for a job (or even if you’re not), look up the names of the companies you don’t know much about. Find out where they’re located. Don’t wait until you’re at the conference center in the career fair to attempt to Google the company to see where they have offices, or what they even do.
Don’t be scared of networking
Networking, networking, networking. The word seems loaded, because it’s associated with talking to strangers who might eventually become your employers so you want to make a good impression and be nice but you also want them to know how smart you are and also you want to find out what they do and ask them lots of inquisitive questions and are you making enough eye contact are you making too much eye contact OMG they hate you you blew it you should just never talk to anyone again. Just kidding! That is sometimes how I feel about networking in my head, but in reality it’s not that scary. Guess what? These people want to be there and they want to talk to you about what they do. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be there at all. Also, they’re probably going to be pretty nice if they’re posted up at their companies booth, prepared to talk to strangers all day. And if they’re not? You probably don’t want to work with that kind of person anyway, so thanks to them for making your mind up about that company. In general, try to go to Grace Hopper with a smile and an open mind. Put yourself in those uncomfortable situations where you can introduce yourself to someone new and learn about what they do. You might meet someone on a shuttle bus heading to the conference center, or in a talk, or at the career fair. Just ask them how their day is going and what sessions they’ve liked so far. If you are at the career fair, and you know there’s a company that you reeeeeally want to talk to but you’re nervous, go talk to some other companies first to bite the bullet, and get used to the whole routine and use those as practice for the big one you are building up to.
Don’t be afraid not to know everything
There will be a lot of companies that you may or may not have heard of at this conference. It’s totally okay to approach someone and say “Can you tell me more about Company X?” or “What do you do at Company X?” People love talking about themselves and they should love their companies, so they will be more than happy to spell things out for you.
Don’t forget to ask for people’s contact info
Okay, so you got through the hard part of introducing yourself to someone and you had a great conversation about their company and how it aligns with your interests. You also found out you have a common interest and you like the same band! Awesome! Great job. Pat yourself on a back. What a connection you just made. Time to move on to the next person, right? Wrong! You forgot to ask for their contact information. A key point of networking at these events is following up, which you can’t do unless you have someone’s contact information. So at the end of every meeting, don’t be afraid to say “can I have your contact information?” They might have a business card or give your their email address. In some cases, they may not be totally comfortable giving you their information, in which case they will let you know and that’s fine. That’s really the worst case scenario. Hold on to those business cards so you can follow up after the conference.
Don’t compare yourself to the others around you
There will be a lot of extraordinary people at this conference. There will be keynote speakers and presenters who have done things that seem incredible and impossible for a normal human to accomplish. You will also be at the conference with your peers who might already be getting job interviews at places where you really want to work. This can all be intimidating, but let it be motivating. Use the speakers at the conference as inspiration for something you can aspire to in the future, and perhaps be a bit more proactive when trying to talk to companies and tell them how much you really want to work for them. There are a lot of people at this conference, and it may seem overwhelming. Just focus on yourself and how you can present the best version of you to people at the conference, because that is all that you can control.
Don’t miss out on sleep
If possible, try to get a normal amount of sleep each night before the conference. This might be difficult because you could be at the conference center from 8am–10pm, but it will really be much better if you are alert and present when you’re trying to pay attention during a session or meeting someone new and trying to learn about them. Use the night time during the conference to really recharge for the next day. Coffee also helps.
Don’t arrive late to sessions you really want to go to
The first day of the conference appeared to be the most well attended, and the career fair hadn’t opened yet so it felt like everyone was going to every session. I tried to get into more than one session that was already full by the time I got there. If you are dying to go to a particular session, show up early! That being said, don’t be afraid to leave a session if you aren’t super interested in it, because there might be people waiting to get in outside the door, and they might want to see the session a bit more than you. Also, there’s a good chance you won’t make it to every session you want to go to, especially if you want to spend a lot of time at the career fair, so keep that in mind.
Don’t forget to have funnnnnnn
You’re at an amazing conference with awesome women in technology from all over the world! Enjoy it. Soak it in. Have fun. Use the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing to motivate you to do great things with your career in technology.
*Also don’t forget to grab some swag from the career fair. So. Much. Swag.