As a new professional (or one that has recently pivoted) in evaluation, you might be wondering how to leverage yourself or “plug-in” to the community. The beauty of evaluation is its interdisciplinarity but that can make plugging in a little daunting (but not impossible!). Below are some tips on how to immerse yourself in the field!
Become an American Evaluation Association (AEA) member.
Not only will you be able to attend the yearly conference, you will have more opportunities to become involved than you will be able to sign up for. From professional development to peer-reviewed articles, AEA really does have a great compilation of resources for academics and practitioners.
Attend an AEA conference!
It is one thing to become a member and never go to a conference, but this is one conference I am willing to pay out of my own pocket to attend. If you’re looking to share and learn from others, find a job opportunity, or just network with others, this week-long event is a great investment. I can promise you one thing: the AEA conference is like no other (in a good way).
Find your Local Area Affiliate on AEA.
Again, AEA is a great resource, and that isn’t just at an international level. They also support AEA affiliates, which means you can be involved throughout the year. This is a great way to meet evaluators near you, find out about independent work (if you’re into that), and further develop yourself as a professional. If possible, I suggest being part of a committee or the board. You will be stretched more than just being a member. We have all become members of organizations to never actually attend an event (c’mon, I know I’m not the only one).
Join an AEA Topical Interest Group (TIG).
If you have a certain area (or maybe more than one) within the field of evaluation that strikes your fancy, get more involved through a TIG! You might have the opportunity to write a blog post, rate conference proposals, and/or be part of the yearly meetings (held at the AEA conference). Again, you will meet people with similar interests but with different levels of experience. I’m part of the Data Visualization and Reporting TIG, along with Research on Evaluation.
Refine your elevator speech.
Who are you? What’s evaluation? How do other people entitle what you do? All of these things are important. Be ready to explain what you do to others. Dividing my time between industrial-organizational psychology and evaluation means I’ve had to refine this for all areas of my professional life. My best advice is to think back to those family dinners…how do you explain it? Okay, take that and make it relatable each time you talk about it. UC-Davis has a good resource on this here.
Get on Twitter…oh yeah, I said it.
Evaluators are taking on Twitter and it is AWESOME! This is a quick way to see what the trends are and learn from others. Plus, you get to share your own thoughts and work. As someone who was anti-Twitter for a long time, I get it…you might be apprehensive. Twitter is the way to find little nuggets of information that can often times lead to great finds. So, if you haven’t already, create an account and start following other evaluators (pro tip: find one person you like and check out who they’re following)!
…and there you have it! Did I miss something? Feel free to share what has worked for you.
NEW – Additional tips from Ann K. Emery’s blog…
P.S. Click here to read a blog I wrote for AEA365 as a Data Visualization and Reporting TIG member.