After 95 Years of Networking, What’s Next for the NextGen?

by: Daniel DeHollander

As a member of the #ACPA19 NextGen Team, I have been working with other convention volunteers to develop a curriculum that will introduce aspiring student affairs professionals to both the field of higher education and ACPA in Boston. While designing a curriculum that includes finding ways to get involved in ACPA, understanding the graduate school search process, and conducting a job search, the topic of networking has come up many times.

According to Andrew Hennigan (2013), author of “Payforward Networking”:

Networking is a deliberate activity to build, reinforce and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further your goals. Professional networking is simply networking focused on professional goals.”

Many people engage in the ACPA Annual Convention to network; therefore, to prepare for NextGen, it was essential to take time to research current trends related to how people form and maintain professional connections. An initial search revealed networking best-practices in the United States have changed dramatically even in recent years largely due to new technologies and expansions in social media platforms.

Knowing ACPA will celebrate its 95th anniversary in Boston in March 2019, I resolutely decided to examine how previous generations of networking best-practices have influenced this generation of networking best-practices and to write a blog detailing my definitive conclusions. Although well-intended, this self-imposed task was a bit daunting from the start. My initial dive into this topic abruptly reminded me how significantly historical and sociological contexts have influenced systems of higher education and employment, and it generated more questions than answers:

  • How did the expansion of athletic teams and student activities on college campuses, including “societies, associations, organizations, and military groups, religious and benevolent organizations,” in the 1920’s and 1930’s promote networking, and who was invited and able to participate (Osburn, 2013)?
  • Who produced the newsletters and radio ads reaching large audiences in the 1940’s and 1950’s? What was broadcasted, and who determined the networking “best practices” promoted through these mediums?
  • How did the Women’s Movement and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s impact professional networking in these decades and subsequent decades, and how did people define “professional” now that labor markets were beginning to change and open to people in historically marginalized populations?
  • How did professional networking change in the United States in the face of a population boom, growing prosperity, the passing new legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act, and as computer and communication technologies we know today just began the 1980’s and 1990’s?
  • What may an individual who grew up in the digital-age teach someone who became accustomed to digital technologies later in life and vise-versa?

With a century’s worth of considerations and contradictions in mind, I drafted a blog detailing networking practices in the United States from the 1920’s until now. I wasn’t satisfied. I realized summarizing 95 years of complicated and exclusionary history in a concise blog format was an overly ambitious task. Shifts in networking, recruiting, and hiring practices in the United States often mirrored shifts in inclusive practices, and, while I was able to allude to this reality, I was unable to appropriately introduce this in my blog. This same realization was reinforced in the critical and necessary feedback I received from some of the blog reviewers. I decided not to publish my initial blog.  

At first, I was discouraged by my own decision to not publish the blog summarizing 95 years of networking in the United States. Did I just throw away my one shot to revolutionize the way we introduce networking to the next generation of student affairs professionals? I swear I could have done so much more if I only had time.

As an educator and as someone who volunteers on ACPA convention teams for intentional professional development opportunities, I remembered this is the time and space where learning happens. It’s the times we fall short and the spaces where we can be most vulnerable that help us grow. The opportunity to continue the conversation about networking is by no means at an end. It is just beginning!

As we further refine the curriculum for NextGen 2019 and consider ways to introduce the aforementioned topics to the undergraduate participants, I will maintain a critical lens and consider how certain attitudes and networking practices have been inculturated. I will continue to seek diverse perspectives related to crucial topics. I will consider ways NextGen participants and Association members can effectively advance their professional goals while still being their authentic selves. I will support ACPA’s implementation of the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization.

This is how I will influence the NextGen of networking. How will you?      

Works Cited

Hennigan, Andrew. “What Is the Definition of Professional Networking?” What Is the Definition of Professional Networking?, Quora, 5 Dec. 2013, www.quora.com/What-is-the-definition-of-professional-networking.

Osburn, K. (2013, December 13). Clubs, Associations, Organizations: Networking in the 1920s. Retrieved July 23, 2018, from https://genevahistoricalsociety.com/organizations/clubs-associations-organizations-networking-in-the-1920s/).

Daniel DeHollander (he, him, his) is the Case Manager for Residence Life at American University. Daniel has been a member of ACPA for seven years, and he is currently serving on his second Convention Team. Daniel is originally from Rochester, New York, and he earned his Master’s Degree in Higher Education from the University of Arizona in 2013. Daniel enjoys event planning, theatre, and spending time with his niece and nephew.  

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