By Alvin Pilobello, SYPC Chair and Vanessa Borkowski, SYPC Vice Chair
Whether it’s your first time, or your 22nd time, WEFTEC is a whirlwind of presentations, networking events, learning and discovery – which are energizing AND exhausting at the same time. WEFTEC has a wonderful app, and you can plan your days before you get there. Once you’ve landed in New Orleans for WEFTEC 2018 – Now what?
All the YP Events
The Young Professionals Committee has a jam-packed program. You can find it all under https://weftec.org/attend/students-and-young-professionals/. That’s not the point of this article, however. We co-wrote this article to help you get the best out of WEFTEC, and not let it get the best of you!
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, WEFTEC’s ocean of presentations, vast expanse of exhibition booths, and miles of walking between events can be mind-boggling for even the seasoned water environment professional.
It goes without saying that getting a good week’s sleep before WEFTEC can be helpful. However, life happens and sometimes sleep doesn’t. Between wrapping up work projects, family arrangements, and early-morning flights, catching the optimal amount of sleep is not always possible. Thankfully, WEFTEC has many pockets of space to recuperate, if you look hard enough.
Parties along Bourbon Street, and then attending 10 technical sessions the next morning can be fun, but so can quick 10-15 minute moments of quiet to re-coup before heading to your next event or session. Your accommodation may not always be conveniently located for a quick rest, but consider taking advantage of a browse through the WEF Bookstore, or on the wonderful couches in the International Lounge. Your feet and your super-stimulated minds will thank you.
Also, remember to do some planning of WEFTEC in advance to ensure that you are achieving your goals. Are you meeting with the right folks? Perhaps you need to visit that vendor with the technology you’re planning to use on an upcoming project or learn about successful projects from a technical session. Part of overcoming that feeling of being overwhelmed or inadequate can be eased with some preparation!
In addition to mini-escapes and planning, there is no substitute for proper nutrition while on the road. Make dinner reservations with your fellow YPs and share your experiences around the table.
Showing up at your best can sometimes be a challenge for fresh WEFTEC attendees, especially students and young professionals. Questions start to arise like, “Am I asking smart enough questions?”, or, “I’m afraid I won’t sound like I know what I’m talking about with this water environment industry superstar”, or “What’s he / she even talking about? I feel in over my head!”.
Have no fear! Here are a couple of tips to help address some of that anxiety.
1. What’s your story? And find out theirs!
“What do you do?” is over-asked and can sometimes have a judgmental tone to it.
Be ready with a few stories of (a) what brings you to WEFTEC, (b) what’s exciting / challenging you nowadays, (c) What you’re really looking forward to at WEFTEC. Then take all 3 of the previous questions and turn that into a question for your conversation partner. Which leads us to the next tip:
2. Prepare some interesting questions
Have a few questions at the ready that are open-ended enough that it allows for a wide range of possible answers, and unconventional enough that the responder doesn’t gloss over it automatically with a well-rehearsed answer. For example, opening with “How are you?” is all too common, but a “How was that session for you?” might give you a different perspective of the same presentation you just saw.
… but wait! How does this help my anxiety?
By (a) being confident with why you’re at WEFTEC and what you’re interested in, and (b) combining that with stimulating interesting exchanges with people around you, you can focus less on having to impress the person across from you. Instead, you can adopt a growth mindset and focus on learning about the other person’s interest and expertise. Watch when the person’s eyes light up as they talk about what makes them excited. It’s amazing how anxiety turns into an excitement energy (note: the physical symptoms are the same!).
Still stumped with imposter syndrome? If you need an ally, connect with SYPC committee members through WhatsApp by joining our chat group.
No Hostages Please: Respecting People’s Space and Priorities
There’s virtually no situation in the world where “hostage” is a desired status. In the same vein, don’t hold anyone hostage, especially in networking situations. The superstars and the newbies alike have differing agendas and tight schedules. Sometimes you only get a quick 2-5 minutes of someone’s time, before they need to move on to the next.
You’ll notice that if you have natural chemistry with someone, there’s less of a need to try too hard. Be in the moment and enjoy every unexpected moment! If someone only has 2 minutes to exchange information, great! If they end up chatting with you for 45 minutes on career and personal topics, great!
The important part is to respect people’s space and time. It’s always refreshing when someone asks if I need to go, or where I’m going to next. This leaves them an (appreciated) opening to go onto the next thing, instead of feeling trapped and risking an awkward exit.
Celebrate the wins
There is sometimes an anxiety that is caused by the question, “Did I manage to make the most out of my WEFTEC? Did I meet enough people?? Did I learn enough things???”
When you notice that saboteur pop up, take a step back, and take a breath. Take stock of all your wins, especially where you feel you stretched a bit more of your abilities. Note the lessons where you can do better next time. On your travel back, take 30 minutes to reflect on what else you might have learned. That return flight home can be therapeutic. When we step back, the other lessons come up to the surface. Take notice and celebrate your WEFTEC 2018 experience!
We look forward to seeing the WEFTEC floor filled with YPs.
Alvin Pilobello, SYPC Chair
Vanessa Borkowski, SYPC Vice Chair
SYP Meeting at WEFTEC 2017
WEFTEC Career Fair 2017
Friday, September 28
• Water Palooza, event designed to increase public awareness about water related subjects
Saturday, September 29
• WEF Annual Community Service Project: building a
bioswale and an educational green infrastructure graphic.
• Jammin’ 4 Water*, an openmic amateur performance
benefitting water charities
Sunday, September 30
• Student Design Competition
Monday, October 1
• Annual Student Chapter Meeting
• WEF Students & Young Professionals Committee Meeting
• Students & Young Professionals Networking & Career Fair
• Black & Veatch Student Appreciation Night
• Water for People Bash*
• WEF Young Professionals Reception
*Note: These events require an entry fee.