Never underestimate the power of a good conference or workshop. When they’re managed well, they can teach you valuable skills for your job and important insights into the industry where you work. But first, what’s the difference between them? A conference is mainly discussion- and presentation-based, while a workshop incorporates hands-on application of the ideas being taught. What you primarily take away from a conference is knowledge, but what you take away from a workshop are skills and experience. Both can be quite beneficial for advancing your career.
Say you work as a team leader for Tesco, but you’d like to be promoted to department manager. Attending a management training workshop or a conference about the grocery industry could give you the extra boost you need to qualify for the higher position. It will also look good on a CV as it shows you are genuinely interested in gaining knowledge in the field.
In addition to helping you boost your career, conferences and workshops also give you the opportunity to network with others in the field, which can be useful for professional development. Building contacts is a great way to get the inside scoop on job opportunities and future seminars. Just make sure you keep in touch with your networks after the workshop or conference is over.
Workshops in particular can be good for personal development in addition to professional. For instance, the forthcoming Leading Edge Annual Convention 2012 will have the theme of Skills for Success. Geared toward employees in the food and grocery industry, this workshop will offer a series of sessions where one can learn leadership skills, the value of teamwork and more. It’s a free, full-day event devoted to teaching the skills for success — in life and on the job.
However, not all conferences and workshops are free. Many require a fee for admission, sometimes as high as a thousand pounds! But if the cost is the only thing separating you from a beneficial career advancement opportunity, consider applying for a scholarship. Some of the pricier conferences offer scholarships themselves, but if they don’t, you may be able to find a general scholarship that can be put toward career-developing activities.
Another drawback to conferences is that they are often scheduled during traditional working hours. But before you decide you can’t take any time off work to attend, talk to your boss about it. He or she may be impressed by your initiative and rearrange your schedule to make sure you can go.
Location is another matter to consider. Perhaps there’s a terrific workshop being put on in London, but you’re all the way in Manchester! Don’t let it stop you — find someone to carpool with. This is the perfect time to use your networks from previous conferences. Call around and see if any of them are also planning to attend the event, then ask if you can ride along and split the petrol costs.
Conferences and workshops are a career development treasure. The knowledge and skills you acquire, even if they don’t directly relate to your current job, can pave the way for promotions, more responsibilities and better overall job performance. Perform a quick search online to see if any are happening in your area soon!