New Orleans' French Quarter at night. Photo by Falkue via Wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license

Early on June 20th, 2012 I’ll be hopping on a jet plane to New Orleans for five days of networking, job-hunting, training and fun at the National Association of Black Journalists’ Convention and Career Fair. Oh yes, and this being New Orleans, throw in some beignets, chicory coffee, pralines, jambalaya and perhaps even a hurricane or two (the drink, not the act of nature). I know there’s more to New Orleans than food, but… Well, I’d be lying if I said the food wasn’t the part by which I was most enthralled.

This is my seventh convention – I attended my first back in 2003, freshly graduated, while I was an intern at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was really overwhelming at first. I didn’t know anyone – I shared a hotel room with three other women, all of whom were strangers to me. But I was fortunate enough that they took me under their wing and helped me figure out where things were and who I should meet. And perhaps most importantly, they listened to my story and my dreams, and encouraged me when I came back from the Career Fair dejected that the Washington Post and New York Times had expressed no interest in me at all (ah, the simultaneous hubris and insecurity of youth!).

Now that I’ve been through the process a number of times and gained enough friends in the organization that I no longer worry about eating dinner alone or being a nervous wallflower at receptions, I stay on the look out for those first-time attendees with deer-in-the-headlights eyes.  And I do my best to conquer my own shyness and go over and introduce myself, and ask whether they’re enjoying the convention.

So if there are any newbies reading this, feel free to come up and say hello!  And if there are any recruiters reading this, well, I hope to see you there, too! I’m looking for career and freelance opportunities. Contact me via the comments or the e-mail address listed on my contact page.