If you are selecting your first show, choose one that is local to you, a national qualifier, and one that is scheduled far enough out so that you have enough time to prep. I have seen many male and female competitors jump into a show at the last minute with little to no prep. If you are a seasoned competitor who always looks show ready, that’s one thing, but if you are not yet stage-worthy, you could damage your chances of placing high at future shows in the same region.
Remember that there are countless shows all over the United States throughout the year, so don’t rush into it. Plan things out and take your time. If you get a national qualification, great! But don’t rush onto that national stage just yet. The national circuit is quite different from the local and regional ones, and you could end up being a very small fish in a huge pond. This can be quite deflating, especially if you have done well at the local level. Keep in mind that the national shows gather the best of the best from all over the country (and Canada and Mexico for the North American), so don’t be surprised if your jaw drops when you see the caliber of competitors at national events.
While NPC USA and NPC Nationals are outstanding shows, they are huge shows and perhaps not the best ones to select for your national debut. If possible, ease into one of the other events. If you are in the south, consider Jr. USA. If you are near Chicago, consider Jr. Nationals. East coast residents could target Team Universe, while Canadian and Mexican citizens will have IFBB North American as their only national option.
Whichever competitions you select, make sure you bring your best physique possible onto that stage, and above all else, have fun up there!