Utilizing conferences as a career tool

Richard Miller


The upcoming national JALT conference will be held in Tokyo this year, and it is an excellent opportunity for people who are interested in improving their careers, looking for new jobs, and overall improving their employment marketability.

The job information center will have a variety of jobs at the conference as they always do. And that means that there are direct opportunities to gain employment as well as to see what is available as far as employment goes. Doug Meyer will be in charge again this year as he has been for the past couple years, so be sure to drop by and see him if you're at the conference.

Aside from direct opportunities to find employment there are a number of other things that people might consider doing while at the conference to assist with their careers. As always, the conference will have a variety of presentations, and taking time beforehand is an excellent opportunity to decide what to see. At the university where I work part time (Konan University) there is a professional development group, and we meet each year as a group to decide and discuss which presentations to see.

One way of trying to get the most out of a conference is focusing on areas of improvement that you might need. By looking at my weaknesses I was more motivated to attend certain presentations and workshops. As an example, a few years ago I found that I was a little bit weak with publications, so I decided to view several workshops and presentations on getting published in order to gain insight as to what was important when it came to publications and publishing. Through conversations as well as taking copious notes I was able to get a number of ideas, and I was already writing a short article on my way back from the conference.

Of course the other aspect of the conference is to network with people that you meet there, so be sure to bring lots of business cards and try to meet as many people as you can. These people are often very good contacts to know and will help, not only looking for work, but also with your professional development.

The conference is also an excellent way to get involved with various SIG’s. If there is a SIG that you have been interested in, you can visit its table, meet its members, and possibly attend its meeting. It was at a meeting like this several years ago that I got very involved in the CUE SIG which has helped me get committee work, as well as a number of other experiences, including editing, vetting of abstracts for conferences, and publications.

So, as you head to the conference, I would suggest doing what we did at Konan University with the professional development meeting, and look at the schedule to try to decide what you are interested in and what will help you with your career. By taking a marker and marking off the various presentations, I found that I was much more effective with respect to getting a lot out of the conference. If you are going, I hope you'll drop by one of the two presentations that I'll be giving, one on the balanced scorecard and the other on getting organized with your CV and keeping your career on track.