Program evaluation is still a pretty new field. There are plenty of evaluation textbooks and a handful of graduate programs and courses, but I believe the best way to improve your evaluation skills is by talking with other evaluators.

Sometimes people mistakenly think that networking = job hunting. Networking with other evaluators isn’t a just-when-you’re-job-hunting-thing or a once-a-year-at-a-conference-thing.

Talking to other evaluators about their career path, their most rewarding and most challenging projects, their content area expertise, their evaluation approach/philosophy/perspective, and their future evaluation goals is a great way to figure out where your work fits into the bigger scheme of things. They can also introduce you to like-minded evaluators, share resources, and give you advice that improves your day-to-day work.

Some tips:

  • Get involved with your local American Evaluation Association affiliate. Check out these tips by Raeal Moore from the Ohio Program Evaluators’ Group (OPEG) about Becoming Active in Evaluation Organizations.
  • Visiting DC for a few days? Come to a Washington Evaluators brown bag, board meeting, or happy hour while you’re in town.
  • Attend the Eastern Evaluation Research Society’s annual conference in New Jersey. With just 120 attendees, our small size guarantees that you’ll have plenty of opportunities for really great conversations.
  • Attend the Eastern Evaluation Research Society’s conference session called “Career Advice for New Evaluators and Graduate Students.” We get a handful of board members and advisory board members together to chat casually about career options for evaluators.
  • If you can’t meet face-to-face with other evaluators, read evaluation blogs and the aea365 Tip-A-Day by and for Evaluators
  • If someone messages you about evaluation on LinkedIn, write back!
  • If someone invites you to coffee to chat about evaluation, go!
  • If you love evaluation, don’t be afraid to say so to other evaluators. Tons of nerdy evaluators will be happy to have a partner in crime.
  • If you hate evaluation, don’t be afraid to say so to other evaluators. A lot of evaluators fell into evaluation by accident and can share information about their jobs prior to becoming an evaluator.