There are thousands of professional conferences that happen each year. If you’ve never been to one, or if it’s been a while, then you should consider checking one out soon! Whether you’re a student or recent grad, you can learn a lot from attending.
I recently attended Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored in San Francisco (IUSF). I had never been to a full day conference before. I was very excited to finally go to one when my co-worker won tickets through a contest on Twitter and invited me. When I was in college, the career center at my school stressed the importance of going to professional conferences, but I had two main reservations:
I always thought that conferences were expensive, but since my co-worker won tickets, that wasn’t an issue. If you’re a student, there’s likely to be a lower student rate that you could take advantage of. Also, some college career centers have grants for students who want to attend professional conferences to develop their careers.
I had the idea that I didn’t have the time to devote an entire day to a conference, let alone a conference that lasted a few days. However, I learned first-hand how useful conferences are and worked hard before and after in order to go. I think that we all make time for what is important to us and if you prioritize growing your career by going to a conference, then you will still be able to accomplish the other things you have to do.
Three Reasons Why You Should Consider Going to a Conference
1. Get Up to Speed
Conferences give you the opportunity to learn about what’s going on at the forefront of your industry. Whether you want to work in banking, advertising, or tech, there is a conference out there for you that will feature the biggest names in the industry. You can get a better understanding of how the field works and what’s coming next. Speakers will give you an insider look into what’s going on at your favorite companies.
2. Practice Networking
Networking is an essential skill to develop as you’re starting your career because connections are often more helpful in your job search than simply applying. This was especially true for the people that I met at IUSF. One woman told me that when she moved to Los Angeles, the connections she made were the most helpful in her job search. She reached out to many people and if they were unable to help her, she would ask them if they knew of anyone else she could talk to. Ultimately she got her job because one of her connections forwarded her resume to the founder of the company, who then forwarded it to someone in human resources. She is a great example of why networking skills are crucial.
Another person I spoke with talked about the importance of informational interviews and being creative. Figuring out exactly who’s hiring is important in order to make the hiring process personal and to help you stand out as a candidate. An informational interview is an opportunity to learn about a company, industry, and role. It often takes place at the company, so you get a chance to see what it looks like and get a feel for its unique office culture.
3. Get Inspired
Since the speakers are at the top of the industry, there is a good chance that you’ll be able to meet some of your idols. That was certainly the case for me. I recognized a writer I look up to and built up the courage to talk to her. I complimented her work and asked her what she suggested I do as someone who wants to follow a similar career path. She gave me great advice and I put it into action the next day.
What you learn at the conference can help you figure out what role you want to have in the industry. I was inspired by the speakers and got insight on how much creativity and innovation is occurring in the tech community. Before the conference I had only a vague idea of what Pinterest was, but after hearing the CEO Ben Silbermann speak, I downloaded the app. I also learned new things going on, like the genome sequencing work that 23andMe is doing and how it’s impacting the way we think about healthcare.
Conferences can help your career path by directing you to what really interests you. The people you meet there can connect you to great companies and get you ahead in your job or internship search. An unexpected bonus benefit I got from the conference was that one of my tweets about the event was featured in Fast Company’s highlight article. If you’re being sociable (both with the people sitting next to you and with your followers on social media), there’s a chance that you could be noticed too! Being acknowledged was the cherry on top for me. Hopefully my story has inspired you to look up conferences in your field. They provide an invaluable experience to connect with like-minded people and figure out what you aspire to do in your career. Get on the road to a more focused career today!