Monday, March 21, 2011
Ferrum College Women's Leadership Conference
I had the pleasure of attending and participating in the 14th Annual Ferrum College Women's Leadership Conference on Saint Patrick's Day. This year's theme was Empowering Self and Others: Building Social Networks.
On first blush, you might think this was all about FAcebook and Twitter. It wasn't, although both tools played into the discussions.
Beth Macy, feature writer for Roanoke Times, addressed the value of face-to-face human contact. As a feature writer, she knows she gets her best material sitting in someone's kitchen, asking questions, listening and taking notes. Her social networks are up front and in person.
Carrie Smith Schmidt also addressed the human connection in social networking. Her remarks reiterated the importance of personal networks and mentors. Without people who helped her career through the US Department of Agriculture, she might not have been able to use her degrees in animal science and agriculture. A woman studying science at a time when that "just wasn't done," Schmidt carved a career path that now has her working with farmers for the USDA Rural Development program in Virginia.
Two different looks at social networking were featured in panel discussions in the afternoon. "Intergenerational Impacts of Social Networks" featured a panel of students, a young business woman and two grandparents. All used the standard networking tools, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all for different reasons, although a couple panelists were still befuddled by the necessity to "tweet."
The last panel on "Art, Literature and Music: Creative Networks in SW Virginia" brought together representatives of the Crooked Trail, the Blue Ridge Institute, the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, and the Valley Writers chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. The latter would be moi. I emphasized that as a writer your blog, your Facebook entries and your tweets all form part of your resume.
And that brought me to an interesting question: how will today's text-addicted youth interview for a job? Will they be able to make eye contact, shake a hand, ignore the smart phone buzzing in a pocket? Or with they be so numbed by lives of multi-tasking distraction they won't be able to respond to questions that will open or close doors to their future? Sounds like a good essay to me.
Hats off to Nell Frederickson and all of the rest of the staff at Ferrum College for putting on a terrific program. I think faculty, students and the public heard a consistent theme: networking, no matter what the medium, is essential in career and life. Don't blow it.