Have you ever felt that you needed to make a change but that in order to do so, you needed to get more training or education?
Even if you’re not looking to leave your present job, improving your skills may be just what is needed in order to advance where you are. But whether you’re interested in remaining in your present job or want to move into another position or field, there comes a time when it’s wise to invest in yourself.
So why is it that women are frequently reluctant to spend the time or money improving their skills and making themselves more marketable? If our male colleagues are jumping at the chance to improve their job skills while we’re kicking our toe in the dirt then we’ll get left behind professionally. Since women in the U.S. already are paid less than men this is an area we (literally) can’t afford to ignore.
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Conferences reinvigorate our desire to learn
This weekend I am attending a writer’s conference in Oklahoma. It’s one that I’ve had my eye on for the past several years but was unable to attend because of job constraints. But since I’ve left one job and am starting on a second career, I’m investing the time and money in learning something new. I am super excited!
It causes me to wonder, however, how many of us put off doing the things that will cause us to grow personally or professionally. Excuses like “I don’t have the money”, or “I don’t have the time” are too common and I’ve used them myself. But the time comes when it’s time to “….. or get off the pot,” to borrow a phrase. That time has finally come.
Fortunately, I like attending professional events. I’ve always loved learning something new and the idea of a writer’s conference has my creative juices flowing. This new adventure in my life has me anxious to learn from others with expertise that I long to absorb. There is something intoxicating and invigorating about being surrounded by others with similar interests and passions.
Reasons to Attend a Conference
With approximately 85 million people attending a conference every year in the United States alone, there are obviously benefits to the individual and/or their employer.
- Most likely, the main reason most of us attend a conference is the desire to learn something new. Workers (and individuals) attending a professional conference are exposed to the latest information and cutting-edge technology that enables them to be better – and more productive – workers. Individuals attending are generally looking to develop skills that will help them move their careers in new directions.
- Then there are the opportunities for networking with like minded peers. Conferences often provide the perfect opportunity to meet people in your field who can not only provide you with information and skills, but there is the possibility of making important career contacts. These are often the people to contact when the time comes to change jobs or when you’re considering implementing an innovation that they have expertise with. There’s nothing like being able to pick the brain of someone who is more adept or further down the road (or higher up the ladder!) than you are.
- At a certain point in your career, you may even be the one sharing your knowledge and skills with others. Making presentations is not only good for one’s resume, it’s good for your self-esteem as well. I remember several years ago when a colleague and I made a presentation at a state conference. While I was scared silly, I was also excited by the prospect of sharing something we were doing with other professionals. And when the conference was over – let’s just say that I’ve never regretted the time or energy that went into making that presentation. It was truly a self-affirming event.
- And finally, if you’ve ever worked in the same company for any length of time you’re aware that burnout is often a problem. Doing the same job for a long period can create complacency. Attending a professional conference can be as effective as a jolt of electricity at reinvigorating your enthusiasm for your work. Personally, I’ve returned from conferences filled anew with exciting ideas I was anxious to implement – sometimes with even TOO many ideas to realistically implement. But that’s another problem altogether.
When you’re looking to move your career in a new direction, conferences are often the perfect place to expand your repertoire of skills. Cheaper than taking a college course, and more personal than an online class, conferences can offer the best of both worlds – new skills learned while surrounded by others without the outlay of mega-dollars.
Just the thought of this new conference has had me excited ever since I registered for it. Time spent scanning the workshop descriptions has forced me to focus on my personal goals for this time and helped me to thoughtfully examine where I most need to concentrate my attention. I, like many others, have a tendency to have my attention scattered in too many directions. While I’d like to attend every workshop that’s available, the fact that I have to choose causes me to reexamine my priorities as well as my strengths and weaknesses.
So when was the last time you invested in yourself and your career? As it is with most things in life, you’re the only one who can make changes in your circumstances. Finding, and attending, a professional conference is just one way to improve your situation, learn something new, and get increase your enthusiasm all at the same time.
I’ve attended a ton of professional conferences over the years. From all those events I’ve managed to identify some essentials to take with you to help you navigate the event and to keep needed supplies close and convenient. You’ll get the most out a conference if you’re organized and have everything you need to maximize your learning. The items I’ve selected are essentials as far as I’m concerned.
My own rolling laptop bag has several compartments which allows me to carry writing materials and store handouts. Additionally, I find it helpful to bring along a variety of highlighters and pens for making notes on the materials I collect (and during presentations). The one thing I’ve found that is generally is short supply is access to electrical outlets. Bringing my own charging device keeps me from getting that dreaded ‘low battery’ warning at a critical point.