44th Annual Meeting – Luncheon Session, May 15, Emerging Conservation Professionals Network Luncheon

The emerging conservation professionals luncheon was one of the events I was really looking forward to at the annual meeting. As a recent graduate and having just entered the conservation field as a postgraduate fellow, the idea of having a chance to converse with established conservation professionals, and receive advice to help launch my own career was extremely appealing.
Prior to the event, participants filled in a short online form that established what we wanted to achieve from the session. We could sign up as a mentor or a mentee, and choose between a variety of interests including (but not limited to) networking, jobs and fellowships, resume writing, getting into conservation and so on. This information was then used to match us to the people we would be interacting with during the session.
At the luncheon, participants were grouped into tables with approximately 7 – 8 people. At my table were two established conservation professionals, three recent graduates with fellowships/jobs, and two others new to the field.
The program started with an overview of the ECPN, introducing their board members, goals, and previous and upcoming programming. This was useful to new participants, allowing them to know who to reach out to, as well as the resources available to them. This was followed by several testimonials from established professionals, including Sarah Melching, Director of conservation at the Denver Art Museum who gave an in depth account of her unconventional pathway into conservation. It was interesting and also served as a source of encouragement for pre-program attendees.
Once the organized talks were completed, the official networking session began. Each table had a list of questions to facilitate discussions, making it easier for those of us who are a little shyer to keep the conversation flowing. The diversity at the tables was interesting, allowing some who came as mentees to serve as mentors to those just entering the field. This was surprising, yet rewarding. Personally, I left the event knowing I made some new connections, connections that only got stronger throughout the course of the conference.
I hope that such opportunities continue to be offered at future AIC meetings. The support provided from established colleagues in the field is invaluable and I find myself wishing that more time had been devoted to the mentor-mentee exchange. I would also appreciate the prospect of meeting more mentors and talking to them on a one-on-one basis. Thank you ECPN and ECC for organizing the event!
To find out more about the ECPN network and their resources, visit their page here.