By Lauren O’Connor
I was fortunate enough to receive a grant to attend this year’s IACAC annual conference, and I learned that I would also have the opportunity to write an article about my impressions of this year’s keynote speaker. In the spirit of authenticity, I must inform you that while I am perfectly capable of writing in professional journalistic style, I have written this article more as a reflection on the speaker and the conference. I hope you enjoy seeing our speaker and conference through the wide eyes of a grateful graduate student.
This year’s keynote speaker was Brad Karsh, a former Leo Burnett executive who has founded his own companies, JobBound and JB Training Solutions, and has published two books. He is originally from the Chicago area and attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Upon graduation, Mr. Karsh was hired at the celebrated advertising agency Leo Burnett. He held many positions at Leo Burnett, moving up the proverbial ladder over the years. As part of his career he also suffered through a “painfully awkward” dinner with Larry Bird, a former Boston Celtic famous for his three point shooting ability and his minor role in 1996’s Space Jam.
Mr. Karsh’s address, titled “Making Connections: Networking With Your Team,” encouraged all of us to step a bit outside of our comfort zones, meet new people, and find out what we have in common. He has nicknamed this activity “conversity,” or the act of conversing in order to discover connections. We engaged in purposeful “conversity” three times throughout Mr. Karsh’s interactive presentation, leaving our seats to introduce ourselves to a new friend. One pair, who must be particularly fast talkers (or perhaps mind-readers), found no less than twenty three connections in just two minutes! For the third “conversity” exercise, Mr. Karsh encouraged all of us to really think outside the box. Amazingly, two attendees at this year’s annual conference had both been stalked by bears while fly-fishing in Banff, Canada. Apparently bears in Banff would rather mooch off hard-working adults than do their own fishing—they must be Millennials.
Mr. Karsh seems to have a knack for taking common understanding and expanding on it. For example, his personal belief is that when it comes to finding a job, it’s not only what you know and who you know, but also when you know them. Essentially, Mr. Karsh was getting at the need to stay in touch with people over time. Not only is it beneficial when the time to search for a new job rolls around, but it also enhances our professional and personal lives to have friends and mentors who understand our work. This particular thought resonated with me, and I find myself sending many thank you e-mails to the people who took some time to get to know me and offer their wisdom throughout the conference.
The themes of Mr. Karsh’s address included the importance of making connections and building relationships, which beautifully matched the theme of this year’s conference, “Connect.” We know that making connections and building relationships is important. These activities are central to what we do, and Mr. Karsh’s presentation was a welcome reminder to push ourselves past our comfort zones and unearth the many connections we all have with each other.
Mr. Karsh’s address stuck with me throughout the conference, and I hope I am not alone in my gratitude to him for inspiring me to reach out and make new friends. I learned so much in such a short amount of time and met some truly amazing people. Ultimately I realized the uniting characteristic of all IACAC members is our passion for helping students, and although that evident passion is what initially brings us together, all the other wonderful memories, experiences, and joys that we share are ours to discover when we take the time to “Connect.”