Conferences allow you to expand your network, discover yourself professionally, and advance your career. While I was in college, I went to about two conferences every year, assisted in planning with one of the largest professional regional conferences for the National Society of Black Engineers and have also attended conferences in my young professional career. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on conferences, but I know enough about them to probably give some really solid advice on how to make the most of them. While conferences can be intimidating, there are some key things you can do to be prepared and make your conference experience as rewarding as possible:
Research the companies beforehand.
At professional conferences, there is usually a career fair. This is your time to network with professionals and secure yourself a research, internship, or full-time opportunity. Because conferences are planned far in advanced, you will most likely be able to find out what companies are going to be in attendance beforehand. Once you have compiled a list of companies you want to talk to, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Learn about the company culture, the type of people they hire, what roles are currently opened and see how you can make that fit in with your goals and what you want. By doing this you have set a game plan beforehand and you already come in that much prepared and confident.
Pack for success.
If you look good, you’ll feel good. Go out and get a nice suit/dress and make sure it is professional and gears you into putting your best foot forward. Make sure your hair is done, your nails are clean, and your outfit is unwrinkled because it shows you pay attention to detail. When you’re packing for the conference, make sure you have a checklist of what to bring and double check to make sure you have everything so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. Knowing that you have everything you need will give you a peace of mind and will allow you to focus on the conference events.
Participate in the Conference.
Don’t go to a conference just to say you went. Attend workshops, participate in competitions, and attend networking events. Doing those things will allow you to meet more people and increase your network. These competitions also allow you to increase your visibility across whatever organization is hosting the conference which can unlock many opportunities for you.
Chances are you’re in a different city, maybe somewhere you have never been before. Take this time to explore the area, try new foods, and have fun with your friends whether new or old. Enjoy every moment that you can to relax and take it all in.
Attending a conference is one of the most essential things you can do while in college and even beyond. Your experience will be unforgettable. -The Engineer