Minority Interests

Why Attending Conferences Can Help Boost Your Career

June 16, 2014 No Comments

Attending the right conferences is something you need to do if you want to advance your career. I’ve always found conferences to be a great source of information but now I consider them to be a necessity. Conferences are a fast track to gaining valuable insights about the state of the art and the direction that your industry is moving

Conferences are an important part of academic life, as part of my PhD I am actively “encouraged” to attend conferences relevant to my research. It’s not just an academic thing, in my previous roles as an accountant and a consultant I would attend conferences relevant to my industry. Remembering just a little bit of what I heard would help to influence what I did when I got back to the office.

If attendance is useful at conferences then participating is like getting a back stage pass. As a participant, you really need to know what you are talking about and people will be looking to you for your take on things that they think are important.

Last week I was at the 7th Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) conference in Munich, it was the second time I have participated. On both occasions I was so impressed with the quality of the speakers, the ideas and the willingness of the delegates to share their expertise. I also met some incredible people with whom I intend to develop mutually beneficial relationships. The combination of these things and more made it a compelling experience; here are some of the reasons that can make a conference a game changer for you.

Shared Values

Most people who attend the conference share the same values as you. They don’t need to be sold on your key principles or core ideas. This means that you can get past the “so what” questions and actually get to the things that you both think are important.

The name of the conference I recently participated in was Equality; Diversity & Inclusion that meant that everyone I spoke to already understood the value of these things. I didn’t have to explain why diversity was important, convince them of the business case for diversity or explain the relevance of researching minority ethnic professionals. They just wanted to know what I had to say and why it was worth listening to. This is great because it means everyone gets to refine their ideas by deep diving into the issues that matter.

Developments in the Field

Have you ever heard of a new invention or development in your field and were really surprised by it? If you attended the right conference, you would have been aware of a lot earlier any wouldn’t have been shocked when it was brought to the market. Attending conferences, allows you to be kept up to speed with these developments and trends in advance of when they impact. As William Gibson says, “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet”

A Common Language

Every industry has it’s own language that insiders use to communicate; it also helps to identify members of the community. Conferences are great places to learn the new buzzwords or phrases or concepts that are being used. Understanding them and when appropriate using them means that you are an insider. It’s also an easy opportunity to share what you’ve learnt with others when you get back to the office. Not a bad thing if you want to boost your career. At EDI I was introduced to the idea of a Courageous Conversations, a protocol developed by Glenn Singleton and Curtis Linton to help people to negotiate the interracial discourse about race. This gives me even more valuable information that I can use for my clients, research participants and audience.

Potential Allies

The great thing about meeting people who share your values, speak the same language and are interested in developments in the field is that it greatly increases the probability of finding allies. These may be people with similar experiences or those who you can form a mutually beneficial relationship with. They may be future members of your developmental network.

At EDI I met a number of incredible people, some gave me some ideas about for this blog, my research and also identified areas that I could give even more value. I’ll be talking about them more in the near future and the impact it’s going to have on my mission to deliver value for minority ethnic professionals.

Key Persons of Influence

At the highest level, the individuals responsible for influencing the future of your field are probably more available to you at conferences than they would be at any other time. If you have a hero in your field, you are more likely to meet them at a conference than sending them an email saying, “I’m a huge fan will you be my mentor?” (Not an approach I would recommend). Conferences do a great job of letting you know who the influential people are in the field, if they are not there, they will be referred to. Writing a list of these people or their organisations can help you to understand where the industry is headed as well as identifying rising stars.

As a minority ethnic professional conferences are a no brainer as a resource for enhancing your own value in the market place and undermining the ethnic penalty. So what about you? What conferences do you attend? If not why aren’t you?

I want you to do two things:

Please share this with anyone you think can benefit from this information and leave a comment to share your experiences.

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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