by Fallon Bleich, Head Editor, INALJ Oklahoma
Why You Should Attend Conferences
As a job searcher and library student, one of the most valuable resources I’ve managed to gain and utilize is conferences. While they can be overwhelming, I think they have helped build my confidence in my job skills and have taught me the value of networking. What’s more, I have learned amazing new things—like programs to bring to the library, technologies that are being used, etc—that I can bring with me to an interview and new job. Conferences also bring out a lot of my passion for library work and that can be incredibly useful in an interview. Trust me; nobody wants to hire a bored librarian!
Here are the top 4 reasons you should go to conferences:
1.) Resources: The number one reason you need to go to conference as a job searcher is the resources. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard of people finding jobs through being in the right place at the right time at a conference. And both ALA conferences have the Job List Placement Center, where you can schedule a time to go and talk to someone about your resume or just discuss your career with a professional counselor. Finally, many people at conferences are in the midst of hiring; if even only 5% of the people who attended the 2013 ALA Midwinter Conference were hiring, that’s 500+ people! It would be hard to find another time or place where access to that many hiring people would be possible, short of a job fair.
2.) Networking: I will admit, the first time I went to a conference, I was incredibly shy about networking with people. Now, I use conferences as a way to connect to as many people as possible. (My Twitter feed alone has nearly tripled because of conferences.) A lot of the battle of finding a job is who you know. There were 10,000+ people at Midwinter this year, and while I definitely did not network with all of them, I met a lot of new people that have similar interests and could possibly help me in a job search in the future.
3.) Education: Conferences are where I learn the most about the current state of the field. The presentations at conferences are my favorite part. I have learned a ton about everything from web 2.0 tools to how to incorporate Baby Boomers as volunteers in my library. Knowing this information has gotten me small promotions in job responsibilities at my current part time library job and has shown my bosses that I am interested in making my library the best place to be. What’s also great about conferences is the exhibitors. Publishers, vendors, and others come to these conferences because they know that we’re the ones to promote their newest book or technology. This is great for you, because you can connect with these companies and you are learning about great new technologies and books to bring with you to your next job.
4.) Building Initiative: My number one tip for a conference? Go to anything that you’re interested in, but sounds intimidating to be at. Interested in that RUSA subcommittee’s work, but not sure if you’re welcome? Just go! I’ve made so many connections and become part of groups because I took the initiative and went to those meetings. (This applies to life, too; sign up for anything that comes your way that you might want to do.) As you do this more and more, you gain confidence in just putting yourself out there, and you build great connections and add to your resume. People like to hire people with initiative and a conference is a great way to build this skill.
I’m going to end this by saying that conferences are not cheap to go and I am in no way advocating that you spend a ton of money just to go to conference. All of that said, there are ways to get to a conference for cheap or free, even. If you are a student, pay attention to your listservs from the school; conferences are always looking for volunteers to help run them. In return, you get the conference registration fee waived or you get a stipend to attend. Try to find a way to split room costs—a lot of times conferences will have a program to set you up with a roommate through a forum, etc.—or to find someone’s couch to crash on. Sometimes your job will pay for you to go (if you’re lucky) or you can find a way through another organization. All in all, conferences are fantastic ways to grow your network and your knowledge base; plus, they’re super fun and a fun excuse to see a new city.