By: Fiona Tang, Graduate Assistant
It’s the time of the year again for professional conferences organized by different student groups. Selecting which conferences to attend and how to best maximize the value of each conference can be a challenge for students who are busy with school and recruiting.
Therefore, I will share some tips on how to successfully navigate various professional conferences organized by student groups.
Which conferences to attend?
Many conferences take an entire day, which is quite a time commitment. Therefore, carefully selecting which conferences to attend is important for your time management.
For freshmen and sophomores, conferences are some of the best boot camps to explore an industry and geographic location. If you are interested in learning about private equity and venture capital, then attending a private equity/venture capital conference is the best way to learn about the biggest funds, industry trends and network with potential future employers. If you are interested in an internship in China, then attending China Forum is the easiest way to connect with local employers and students. I would also recommend expanding your horizons by participating in conferences focused on industries you have not explored thus far – there are more job opportunities available beyond finance and consulting. Attending different conferences during freshman and sophomore years can potentially expand your career options.
For juniors and seniors, conferences can also be opportunities to learn about industries/geographic locations, but more importantly they are valuable for networking with future employers. By junior and senior year, it is helpful to have a sense of the industry/location that you would like to target. Given the busy schedules of recruiting and classes, being selective and targeted at which conferences to attend is important. Try your best to Identify you career interests first and attend relevant professional conferences is probably a better option than attending all of them.
How to maximize the value of the conference?
Being well-prepared in advance can save you time and maximize the value of the conference. Review the conference schedule prior to the event and identify specific workshops/forums that you would like to attend. Do your due diligence on the speakers/firms that you are interested in so that you can better understand the topics discussed and ask meaningful questions during the conference.
During the conference, network, network and network! Some students might believe attending conferences is just about listening to different talks. That might be true for freshmen and sophomores, it definitely should not be the case for juniors and seniors. Companies come to student organization conferences mostly for networking and recruiting purposes. It’s important to spend time networking after each talk and get contact information from the speakers, particularly for firms of great interest. Another way to get involved is participating in the conference planning team. For industries/geographic locations that you are interested in recruiting, getting involved in the conference planning team is a great opportunity for outreach and networking with different companies.
In conclusion, conferences are fun and great ways to network and learn about industries. Enjoy these experiences and make new friends while you are there!