As a new grad, it can be easy to think that the years of lectures and classrooms are behind you—but not so fast! Even though you’re out of your structured schooling years, it’s important to keep learning. Attending relevant conferences, webinars, lectures, and seminars will not only keep you on top of your professional game, but it will also help you broaden your horizons, make new connections, and be seen as an expert in your field.
Many workplaces will provide you with a budget to attend these types of events, but even if yours doesn’t, make it a priority to attend a handful each year. Here are just a few of the ways that continuing your education through workshops and trainings can be helpful.
1. To Keep Learning
Obviously, the main reason you attend professional learning events is to increase your knowledge about your field. Whether you attend local professional group events, large annual conferences, or classes on specific subjects, you can learn everything from emerging trends in your industry to specific professional skills that can help you do your job better. Decide what to focus on by considering skills that would be most helpful for your job or department (public speaking, tech skills, social media?) or that you need to get ahead in your career (management training!).
That said, while you’re bound to take a lot from the official program or class, don’t forget to learn from those around you, too! The speakers always have great insight to share, but some of the best things I’ve learned have come from those sitting next to me. Hearing what others have done right, what they’ve learned, and what they’re currently working on not only makes for great stories, but also gives me advice I can apply to what I’m doing now.
2. To Get Ideas & Feedback
Another great thing about professional learning events is that you can share what you’re working on and get feedback from others who know the ins and outs of your field. The best moment for me in all the events I’ve attended in the past year was during a breakout session during a social media conference, where each participant got the chance to share how we use social media for our company. Not only was I able to get an outside perspective on what I was doing for my nonprofit, I also got other helpful ideas from hearing about what everyone else is doing. You can also use this opportunity to ask questions you wouldn’t be comfortable asking some of the higher-ups in your department or gauge how something new you’re implementing has worked for other professionals.
As an added benefit, sharing a little bit about what your company does and what you’re working on is a great marketing tool and can raise awareness about your brand or company as a thought leader in your industry. Now, I’m not talking about sharing company secrets—definitely keep in mind what’s shareable and what’s not. For example, you can (and should) share the common industry tactics you’re implementing, but you don’t have to divulge the stuff you’ve cooked up to set you apart from your closest competitors.
3. To Network Like Crazy
Networking is a big portion of professional events, and most will have time before, during, or after the event specifically for networking purposes. And as a new grad, the connections you make at conferences and seminars can benefit your career or brand in big ways. It’s an easy way to build your professional network—in fact, many of the people I’ve connected with have become business connections, mentors, and even donors for my organization.
So, go to the event with tons of business cards and be ready to meet people. The best piece of networking advice I’ve learned so far is to stand up. It can be easy to immediately stake out where you want to sit at a conference or seminar and then stay there, but resist this urge. You’ll have loads of time to sit later, but it’s much easier to approach people and be approached while you’re on your feet.
Attending industry-related conferences and seminars is a great way that you can demonstrate your commitment to your position and industry to your current employers—and get ahead in your career while you’re at it. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there, and get learning.
Photo courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Burg.