If you’re on the lookout for a new job—whether you’re currently working or job searching while unemployed—attending a business conference can be a powerful tool in your job search. That said, conferences can be pricey. To make the experience budget-friendly, opt for local gatherings or reach out to organizers to see if there are scholarships or discounts available. Attending a conference is an investment of your time and money, but it can net you lifelong connections, a new insight into your industry, interview opportunities, and many other benefits and opportunities.
5 Big Advantages of Attending a Conference
1. You’ll learn about your industry.
During interviews, hiring managers and other potentials colleagues will inquire about your past experience and education. But they’ll also be interested in your knowledge of the overall field. Having an awareness of your industry, from thought leaders to trends, is helpful when you’re answering interview questions. Conferences make it easy to gain these insights.
You may also find out more about specific companies, too. That can help both in interviews and in your cover letter. In your cover letter, you can namecheck presentations from a company’s employees or reference conversations you had with staffers during the event. This helps make your interest in the company seem informed and genuine.
2. You’ll make connections.
Networking really does make a difference! Not only will having broad connections help you find out about jobs (sometimes even before they’re posted), but mentioning someone who works at the company in your cover letter strengthens your application.
If the notion of networking or making small talk makes you feel a bit queasy and nervous, it can be helpful to remember that nearly every attendee at a conference is eager to meet new people. Plus, it’s easy to start a conversation with basic questions like, “What’s your favorite presentation so far?” and “What do you think of [conference’s location] so far?”
Use your elevator pitch in conversation with your new acquaintances. If you have a meaningful or extended conversation, exchange business cards or find the person’s profile on LinkedIn and connect.
3. You’ll discover opportunities.
Many job opportunities are not advertised or listings are posted on job boards only after the hiring manager or supervisor has a candidate in mind. During conversations before and after sessions and during the social parts of a conference, you might discover that a company is looking to fill a position. Or, you may find out more about your dream company from talking to conference attendees, and be able to connect with someone for an informational interview once the event is over.
4. You’ll get ideas and inspiration.
Like a brainstorming session, a conference can be a good way to generate ideas. You may find that after a conference, you find a new field you’re interested in pursuing, or a new type of job. Any great way to take advantage of being at a conference: Ask everyone you meet (and particularly people you admire) how they got to their position. (You may even find a person who will eventually be your mentor through a conference.)
5. You'll improve your job-search skills.
Does small talk make you anxious? Or does presenting or asking questions in a large group leave you sweaty and blushing? Do you stumble over your elevator pitch? A conference can be a place to practice those skills, which are often essential for successful interviews and on-the-job performance.
Plus, What to Do When the Conference Is Over
You’re missing out if you think of a conference as just being a day-long or weekend-long event. Once the event is over, it’s time to follow up with the people you met at the conference.
The easiest way to do this is to connect on LinkedIn. You can also follow new connections on Twitter. A more time-consuming task — but one that can solidify a connection — is to write an email to each person you met. Reference your conversation and let the person know you’d like to stay in touch.