Especially if you’re a newly-minted graduate, the thought of attending a work conference can be excruciatingly painful. Hours of lectures, structured classes, herds of people being shuttled into room after room… work conferences, even at their best, are rarely a picnic. But even with that in mind, the potential perks of work conferences are well worth the expense, travel, and effort. After all, conferences relevant to your career will not only help you rub elbows with other individuals in your industry, but will help you learn more about the industry, keeping in-touch with the cutting-edge.
In some cases, attending certain kinds of conferences can fulfill professional requirements for continuing education credits. And even if that’s not true in your case, the point of most conferences is to learn more about your industry, whether it’s about new programs, tips on being more effective, using new technology, or even about niche areas within your industry. For example, newly-minted cardiology fellows might want to consider conferences that help with interventional cardiology training. Or an IT professional might consider going to a conference specifically geared towards new trends in industry software.
In all cases, when education is the goal, always remember to look beyond just the speakers and the formally presented educational opportunities. Often, many of the other conference-goers can have a lot of wisdom to offer, so try to make a point of building connections with strangers. And that leads neatly into the second point.
One of the other big ways work conferences can give your career a boost is because there are often a lot of networking opportunities, sometimes even with industry bigwigs. For some people, it might even be the only reason to attend conferences, and in general most conference goers make time before and after most of the conference sessions to network and make connections. Always make sure to head to a conference with plenty of business cards, and perfect your introduction: it’s ideal to be able to concisely and cleverly tell others what you do and why you came to the conference in as few words as possible.
Consider networking while at a work conference a little like a blind pitch of yourself to a venture capitalist. After all, you’ll almost never be able to identify industry bigwigs by face alone, and you never know when you might be speaking to someone influential. Practice your public speaking and be aware of how best to communicate engagingly and with precision.
Getting New Ideas
Heading to work conferences is also a great way to get new ideas to implement in your current job. Whether it’s implementing new workflows, learning new methods, or simply being aware of new rules or regulations in the field, getting new ideas is a great way to impress at work… and potentially, set yourself up to climb the corporate ladder. After all, doing nothing to improve yourself is a great way to fall into a work routine where you fall into a rut, and are passed over for possible promotions because you’re not setting yourself apart.
A great way to consider things is to go to work conferences eager to learn where you can improve. Be open to suggestions, and ask other conference goers for feedback at appropriate moments.
Work conferences can definitely give your career a boost… but only if you come to them with the right mindset. Be ready to learn, and try to take as many learning opportunities as you can. But while you’re learning, be most aware of how you can apply what you’re learning to improve the work you’re already doing. And always, always use the opportunity to network. You never know who you might meet from your industry at a conference, so put your best foot forward.