Jessica Lawless, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Ascending Professionals Forum Vice Chair

Photo credit: Josef F. Stuefer 

As a graduate of Texas A&M University, which has one of the most active alumni organizations in the world, I have always understood the importance of networking. This is one of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to join—and stay active in—ASCLS. Over the last couple of years, my passion to continue my involvement has paid for itself 10-fold. You do not need to chair a committee or go to every event in the nation, but I encourage you to delve into involvement in some way. If you are receiving this newsletter, you are already a member of our Society. I encourage you to consider becoming more active.

First and foremost, seek out your state constituent society. If your state isn’t involved, look to the next state over in your same region. Your local society can help ease you into the web of involvement in ASCLS and allow you to connect with others who share your passion for the laboratory profession. You might be able to get involved with local students, helping with classroom lab setup, clinical site education, or student bowl competitions. Meeting the younger generation of laboratory scientists is a crucial part of involvement in the professional Society. You can be a mentor or resource for those new to the field, and you get to feed off of the energy and enthusiasm of the students just learning. I have enjoyed being a judge for a student bowl competition and meeting the students. It keeps some of that theoretical knowledge fresh in your mind, so you do not lose it in the everyday laboratory duties that are more practical knowledge based.

Maybe you are ready to move forward in your involvement but are a little timid to jump into national committees. Regional societies can help you broaden your involvement more slowly. You can see the nuances of gathering people from several areas together and the impact you can have when teamed up in a larger geographical area. Meet those from other states that are in a similar place as you are in the profession. Ask to be mentored as an officer or committee member. Find the richness of education and expertise you have access to by just reaching out to the next state. Regional involvement is unique and something I would recommend if you are looking for that next steppingstone to move forward in your professional career.

Next get involved on the national level. I suggest you attend the ASCLS Joint Annual Meeting. You get to meet so many wonderful people and hear talks from experts all around the country! I am in awe of the rich knowledge of those in our profession, and it inspires me to be a better laboratory scientist. I love listening to the discussions from all of the generations of laboratorians in attendance. You can join or sit in on committee meetings to see how things are accomplished. You can attend the ASCLS Board of Directors and House of Delegates meetings to understand how we operate on the national level. Most of all, you can mingle and meet others who share your views and find friends and mentors all over the country.

Why is this important? The best example I can give is my personal experiences over the last year. In April 2019, I realized life was taking me halfway across the country from Louisiana to the mountains of Idaho. I didn’t know anyone at all from that state and definitely had no idea what employment opportunities were available. I made it a mission to meet someone at the Joint Annual Meeting who could help me get acquainted with the area.

I looked up the Region VIII Community in the Connect Communities and asked for a contact. I had great success and was pointed to several contacts to look for at the Joint Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. When I arrived at the meeting, I played a sort of “telephone game” to finally get to others from Idaho. It was amazing! I met people from Region VIII and then met officers from Idaho’s state society. I even met another ascending professional whom I have gotten to see several times already.

When it came time to find a job, I already had contacts to ask. I was looped into a local event in the community where I met even more peers from around the state. I look forward to continuing my involvement in my new home and thank everyone for being so helpful and kind.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all of the opportunities and brushing off the “spiderwebs” of the ASCLS network, I challenge you to start following the strands as they spiral out into a big community of like-minded and caring laboratory professionals, who can enrich you in this profession that you have chosen.

Jessica Lawless is a PRN generalist in the trauma hospital in Boise, Idaho.