From April 19th through April 22nd, AOTA® will be taking over the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City Utah for their annual conference. Chances are, you have heard of the weekend-long event throughout your education. But if you’re like me, what exactly happens during the event has always been a bit of a mystery.

Last year, I finally attended to present my graduate capstone project. I was able to experience the conference at its finest, and ultimately to discover the importance it plays in one’s academic and post-academic career. Here are 5 reasons why all recent OT graduates and current students should attend.

  • Networking – As someone who was about to conclude her final Fieldwork II, the biggest aspect of the conference that stood out to me was the ability to connect with potential employers. Once you enter the main conference center, there are seemingly endless rows of booths featuring both travel and general OT companies that are ready to connect, and to potentially help you find your dream job in your dream location.
  • Learning – One of the best parts of the conference is that there are countless lectures, seminars, and workshops to attend. Nearly every facet of our profession is represented throughout the weekend, meaning you won’t have any trouble finding something that interests you. For recent graduates, this is a great opportunity to earn some continuing education units (CEUs).
  • Remaining up to date with new happenings in OT – Most can agree that the new technological advances in our field have created incredibly rapid changes that can often be difficult to keep up with. Attending the AOTA® conference makes it easier, as all of the newest developments will be there. Even better, most will be available for you to try out.
  • Connecting with other OT Students – There’s no better place to meet other OTs, especially other new graduates or soon to be graduates. You’re surrounded by them in one city, in one building. This makes it really easy to create meaningful connections with people who truly understand the highs and lows of the profession, as well as the academic path towards it.
  • Traveling – For those with wanderlust, there is no better excuse to adventure to a place you haven’t been before. Consider it an investment in your future, with the perk of having the opportunity to explore a new city and develop an understanding of how OT is practiced in different parts of the country.

Some tips:

  • Wear comfortable shoes- You will be walking a lot, especially if you’re there all three days. The last thing you want is to have to take a break in the middle of an exciting day because your loafers or heels are hurting your feet.
  • Dress professionally- Choose the higher end of business casual: For girls, wear a shift dress or a nice pair of trousers with a button down. Boys should stick to slacks and a button down. Leave the jeans at home.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume or business cards- You never know who you may run into that could become a mentor or an employer. Being prepared will help you stand out from the crowd and immediately pique people’s interest.
  • If you only have one day, make a plan- The conference is massive and can feel overwhelming, but having a general ideal of what seminars and booths you know you want to attend can add some structure to a generally free flowing day.
  • Be open minded- This is the time to stop at a booth or drop into a lecture that is entirely different from what you want to do. Take some time to talk to people working in skilled nursing facilities if you’re almost certain you want to work in pediatrics, or stop at an orthopedic booth despite it having nothing to do with your current set of career goals.
  • Talk, talk, talk- You never know who you may connect with, or what individual may have some words of wisdom that end up being pivotal to your career or academics. Be friendly, make conversations and try to learn from everyone you meet.