Choose Your Conferences Wisely
As I’m about to head off to a 3-day careers industry conference in Annapolis, I can’t help reflecting on the many conferences I’ve attended over the years since I started my resume writing & career coaching business 20+ years ago. Some of those were exceptional, while a number of others were definitely good. Rarely was a professional conference really a let-down.
One of the biggest benefits I’ve found by attending conferences is the opportunity for in-person networking with like-minded individuals–people who take their businesses very seriously and themselves not too much so. [job seekers can substitute “careers” for “business” in this sentence.]
Certainly I’ve attended many workshops and break-out sessions at those conferences and received substantial value from the information shared in those sessions. However, networking with my peers/colleagues has undoubtedly delivered one of the biggest boosts of the conferences. I learn so much from those interactions!
Mind you, my professional colleagues (and often mentors) are part of a larger community that practices fairly open sharing of expertise, ideas, and so on. We also tend to refer possible clients to each other when the situation doesn’t fit us for some reason (lack of time, wrong industry, or other factors). If your professional organization is similar in nature, you should have some great value to pull from when you attend the conference.
Professional Conferences Not Worth Your Time & Money
If your organization tends to put on party-oriented conferences/conventions, it’s still your choice of whether or not to attend. However, the odds of such an event delivering noticeable value to your career success are not great. In fact, if something goes wrong, the opposite could turn out to be true. At worst, you could face a career disaster!
Questions to ask include the following:
- Is the program geared toward subjects that are current hot buttons in my field or industry?
- Are the speakers/presenters people with solid “credentials” in the fields they’re presenting on?
- Does the program allow space on the schedule for unstructured networking–between sessions, at lunch, or later in the day?
- If the conference includes a vendor section, do those vendors offer real value or just an opportunity to spend money on their products?
If you’re considering attendance at a professional conference, start thinking like an entrepreneur (if you haven’t already). You want to succeed–however you define success–and being ready to take big steps can be at least a bit easier if you reach out to people who’ve “been there, done that” and are willing to share their expertise without expecting a major return.
At the same time, it’s important to understand that you can’t get value out of the venture if you’re not willing to put effort and energy into it. The rewards of becoming an entrepreneur seldom (if ever) come without being willing to take some risks. So plan to attend the conference with an eye to giving as well as receiving. Participate actively. Long-term career success is within your grasp if you approach it right.