Career Advancement

Maximize the Benefits of Your Next Professional Conference

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Attending a professional conference should not be an exercise in hoop jumping, but an opportunity to enhance your career in meaningful ways. After all, attending a conference consumes more resources—including money and time, for you and your organization—than staying at the office. It makes sense to get the most out of every conference you attend. Consider following these tips to gain the most benefit from your next conference.

Choose a conference carefully. It is likely that there are more conferences in your professional field than you have the resources to attend. Instead of choosing one at random, or based on one factor, such as location, take time to research options and weigh multiple factors. Here are questions you might ask:

  • To perform my job, is it necessary that I acquire the information presented or shared at the conference?
  • Will I learn a new or relevant skill?
  • Is there a way for me to contribute to the conference as a presenter or participant?
  • Are the people who attend the conference people I should communicate and network with?
  • Is the cost of the conference worth what I will get out of it?

Prepare beforehand. Decide which sessions you’d like to attend, and create a schedule of how you will spend your time. You might make spur-of-the-moment adjustments, but having a general itinerary is important so you don’t miss an important session or event. Also, look into whether there are any pre- or post-conference sessions or meetings that you might be interested in attending. Finally, update and remember to bring your business cards and any other materials you may want to share with others.

Talk to people. The word networking gets so much press that it can seem more complicated than what it really means—talking to people. No matter how shy you feel, strike up conversations, and engage with those who speak to you. Great relationships often begin with a spontaneous conversation between strangers. Conversations can occur before sessions begin, after sessions have ended, in the hallways between sessions, and at social receptions. Networking is at least as important as learning at conferences—some suggest even more so. According to a Chronicle of Higher Education article about academic conferences, “networking is the whole point.” Networking is also one of the most commonly overlooked opportunities by conference attendees.

Take (the right amount of) notes. While attending sessions, write down important information that you may find useful later. However, don’t focus so much on taking notes that you don’t actually listen to what the speaker is saying. QIP Proposal Manager Mary strives for a balance between engaging with what’s happening and recording key details that she can refer to later. That way, she doesn’t miss out on the learning opportunities of the moment—or the learning opportunities that will come when she’s back at the home office. You can also look into whether presentation slides will be made available to participants after the conference. If so, you will not need to write down anything that’s on a slide, just a note to yourself to access the slides later.

Follow up afterward. It’s easy to slip back into your day-to-day routine without incorporating anything you learned or reconnecting with anyone you met—but don’t allow this to happen. It is important to be proactive after the conference has ended. Capitalize on the benefits of attending, because otherwise they slip away. For example, QIP Project Associate Dee makes sure to use the business cards she obtained to contact the people with whom she networked. Other QIP employees have contacted speakers whose presentations piqued their interest. By contacting fellow conference participants, you can continue, or begin, professional conversations for mutual benefit. Also remember to incorporate the knowledge and skills you learned into your professional life. Refer to your notes and any available slides, and make changes accordingly. You might also share your findings with your teammates. For instance, QIP Communications Director Deanna has given presentations on what she’s learned at conferences and on how the organization can incorporate the lessons into their work.

Maximizing the benefits of a professional conference takes a bit of effort and initiative, but the career advantages you will gain are worth it. Attending a conference allows you to learn new things and connect with people in your field, and these insights and connections will stay with you long after the conference has ended. Remember, for best results, it is important to take actions not just during the conference, but also beforehand and afterward. Following these tips can help you advance your career and be a leader in your organization and professional field.

The World Is Changing . . . What’s Your Resolution?

We’ve recently welcomed the year 2018 into our lives. With it will come new experiences, lots of growth, and many changes. Some of us made personal New Year’s resolutions as we contemplated the preceding year as well as looked to the year ahead. January is also a great month to make resolutions for your 2018 work life.

How do you hope to grow as a professional this year? If you haven’t yet identified a work-related resolution, you could try thinking in terms of the ways you want, or need, to change in response to shifting circumstances around you. Since the world is constantly evolving, it’s important to adapt and keep abreast of new trends and technologies.

Also keep in mind that not all resolutions have to be related to completing discrete tasks or learning specific skills (though they can be, of course). For example, consider Maya Angelou’s advice: “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.” Whatever you do, however, don’t remain the same in the face of the rapid transformations our world is experiencing.

The majority of what we do at QIP involves ensuring that education data are as accurate, available, and useful as possible. Therefore, in 2018 we will be thinking about how we can improve data operations, quality, accessibility, and use. We will also be seeking to improve our professional capabilities to support these goals—for example, by focusing on being effective teammates, learning new technological skills, and showing leadership and initiative at work.

Here’s to both continuing to improve education data and developing ourselves professionally this year—sound and reasonable resolutions for 2018. At QIP, we’re proud of what we do because improving education data directly impacts the quality  of education . . . and education, more than any other field, sows seeds that can change our world for the better. We wish to all a wonderful 2018 that’s filled with positive growth and exciting transformations.

[Source of quotation: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/28/maya-angelou-in-fifteen-quotes]

Leadership at All Levels Reaps Rewards

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It may seem paradoxical, but leadership is something that everyone should practice in the workplace. That’s right—leadership isn’t just for the designated “leaders” of an organization. It’s for everyone, from the recent college graduate starting his or her first job, to the experienced professional who’s been working in the field for thirty years. Leadership also isn’t just for large crowds and big meetings; in fact, it’s useful in work situations we experience every day.

American financier and presidential advisor Warren G. Bennis explains that “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” At QIP, almost all of our staff are in the business of converting clients’ ideas into the products we develop for them—and, given Warren G. Bennis’s definition of leadership, that makes everyone at QIP a leader.

How might leadership play out in an individual’s day-to-day work? Here are a few best practices we use at QIP:

  • We schedule meetings with clients regularly and make a point of listening to their needs—which is an important, but often overlooked, leadership tool.
  • We share draft products with clients as a standard practice to make sure that our work reflects their needs. Being responsible for meeting clients’ needs is leadership, too.
  • Finally, it’s important to feel empowered to share assessments of client needs with senior management, project directors, and colleagues throughout the organization, so everyone can stay aware of how the team is helping clients achieve their objectives and goals. Collaboration helps to ensure high-quality outputs; this is leadership.

When you listen to client needs, incorporate their direction into your working drafts, and share ideas and project progress with your colleagues, clients will find your support critical to their success. If you do this on a regular basis, you are surely acting like a leader on your team, throughout your organization, and for your clients.

Teams benefit when everyone is actively leading: working to translate clients’ visions into the products and services they need. We’ve found this to be true at QIP, and it will also be true for you.

[Source of quotation: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Warren_Bennis]