As I have pursued degrees in Personal Financial Planning, first from the University of Missouri and now from Texas Tech University, each fall I have made an effort to go to at least one of a variety of conferences.  It was always a balancing act between getting out to meet professionals in different areas of the industry and figuring out how to fund my travel.  Last fall I was unexpectedly awarded a scholarship to attend the AFCPE Annual Symposium.

I had been to other conferences and expected to have a very similar experience: good but not life changing.  What I found was a different environment with an energy and focus that resonated with me and my career goals.   I found myself surrounded with professionals that were working in an area I had been told was difficult to break into and even impossible to make a living.  I was able to network with people that had been through the process of finding a career in Financial Counseling and had answers to my questions.  The relationships I developed during those few days have lasted beyond the symposium as I have had continued communication with several people, including discussions about potential job opportunities.

While the Symposium in general was a great experience, one of the highlights was the President’s reception – a casual, relaxed, evening event after the normal sessions of the day.  During that reception I was able to meet with present and past board members of the association and get to know them on more of a personal basis.  I gained valuable perspective into the career field and different ways I could go about building my career.  What stuck out most was that everyone was genuinely interested in me and my career goals and openly offered advice to assist me on that path.

What I had expected from the scholarship was an expense paid trip to a conference.  What I got was an experience that changed the trajectory of my career.  I will forever be grateful for that scholarship which provided much more value than simply the dollars that paid my way.

Thomas A. Duffany III, M.S. Candidate, Personal Financial Planning, Texas Tech University

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April 24, 2014

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