Welcome to fall, the official opening of “Conference Season.” While you might dread the chicken dinners, delayed flights, and travel malaise that can accompany association conferences, don’t overlook the many ways that conferences can help advance your career, directly or indirectly.
Many of the hiring managers who seek the assistance of Phoenix Partners to fill open positions place almost as much emphasis on soft skills as hard skills. While soft skills won’t help write the complex code the company may need, soft skills do help maintain collaboration across departments, facilitate clear communications, and allow technical professionals to engage in leadership roles, which is critical in the information age. And guess what? There’s no better place to practice your “soft skills” than networking at a conference. Why, you ask?
- If you’re not a natural networker, it’s easier to get started with people who share your profession.
- You’ll have common themes for discussion and a natural reason to open a conversation, e.g. “What did you think about that keynote address?”
- Practicing at networking will polish your soft skills in a comparatively low risk way. No one knows that you’re normally shy!
Networking at conferences can also lay the foundation for future relationships that may open career paths for you. For example, if you’re actively seeking a new position, conferences can be an ideal place to meet new contacts in your industry, find out which firms are hiring and get the inside scoop on companies you may be interested in working with. You can lay the groundwork for future advances.
- Be prepared – If available, study the registration list and identify people you would like to meet. Likewise, review the breakout sessions to determine those led by people you’d like to connect with. Ask questions and engage in the sessions.
- Be sure to attend all activities (including the chicken dinners) to maximize your networking opportunities.
- Remember names – Using someone’s name in a sentence the minute you meet them will help you remember their name later.
- Take notes for follow up – At the end of a busy day, write yourself notes so you can follow up with key people you’ve met. By the time the conference is over, it may all be a blur.
Access to Industry Movers & Shakers
Another way conferences can fuel your career advancement is through access to industry experts. Larger, national conferences often deliver big name keynote speakers who may be experts in your field. Who better to inspire and guide your professional development? Take advantage of the opportunity to interact if you’re able to. Many keynote speakers will be generous with feedback and sharing their experience in a conference setting.
Get Insights into Industry Trends
Use the conference time to gain as much information as possible, and not just about changes in your field or competing companies. Delve into cutting-edge technologies, theories, and practices that will impact your job and industry in the coming months and years. Understanding what the trends are will help you take on a more active leadership role at your current company, and will make you a more conversant candidate on job interviews.
Breakout sessions or workshops can present the opportunity to learn what your peers are doing, and how they look at issues that you may or may not have considered already. Look through the workshop offerings and try to plan ahead to attend the ones that might enhance or expand your existing skill set. You may learn valuable information that will help you advance to the next level in your career, or at the very least, get good guidance on where to start with certifications.
Re-energize Your Outlook
They say change is as good as a rest. If you’re feeling uninspired or burned out in your current job, attending a conference can provide a needed boost. Sometimes the inspiration will come from a keynote address or discovering a new technology that will solve the problems you encounter in your current workplace. Other times, connecting (or commiserating) with like-minded peers can inject renewed energy into your sense of vocation. Either way, enthusiasm is contagious. Share it with the home team, nurture the connections you’ve made, and strategize about your next steps.
Are you ready to make a career move? Contact Phoenix Partners for help.