A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of attending the ESRC SWDTP Student Conference, 'Beyond Research: Society, Collaboration and Impact'. It was a day of fascinating talks, some enjoyable one-to-one careers conversations, and being thoroughly impressed at how the organising committee had put together such a large-scale and well-run event. I've been saying for years that organising a conference is a great way to develop and showcase a range of skills, and Wednesday really brought this home for me. Organising a conference can help develop your skills in:
communicating: contacting potential speakers and attendees via email, delivering presentations, chairing panel sessions in front of large audiences, promoting the event via social media channels, producing posters, fliers, conference booklets ad application forms
project management: devising the aims, scope and themes of the conference, managing a budget, setting deadlines and milestones, liaising with a range of stakeholders to ensure the smooth running of the conference, breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones, evaluating and reviewing the conference
creativity: generating themes for the conference, producing engaging marketing materials
team-work/interpersonal skills: working as part of a team to deliver the conference, encouraging team members, ensuring you do your share of the work and keep others informed of progress, contributing to meetings/discussions, giving speakers and attendees a friendly welcome
influencing/leadership: persuading other organising committee members of the value of your ideas, influencing decisions about which talks should be accepted, motivating and encouraging others, delegating tasks amongst the group, negotiating with sponsors, venues etc
problem-solving: trouble-shooting problems on the day, staying calm under pressure
and of course not forgetting ...
organisational skills: booking venues, devising timetables, organising catering, fitting all of this in around your studies
So once you've run a successful conference, how do you go about marketing your skills and experience to employers? A few quick thoughts:
- as I have above, use lots of active verbs express what you did and how you did it
- give clear, specific examples
- refer to outcomes and the impact of your efforts - how many people came? did the conference receive good feedback? result in new collaborations?
- quantify what you did and the outcomes, to give a sense of the scale of what you achieved. Put a number on the budget you managed, size of the audience you presented to (and who they were), size of the committee you led
- even if you did this as part of a team, be very clear about what YOU did and your role in the team's success
Of course, another way to use conferences to boost your employability is through making and developing new contacts, but that will form the theme of another post soon ...