I have just returned from my one and only summer conference this year having spent a very enjoyable three days in Cambridge. Academic conferences are considered by those outside the profession to be somewhat of an indulgence: a chance to let your hair down and relax! Far from it, they are actually really useful to the job seeker.
One thing I haven’t got round to doing yet is having my business cards made up. This is vital for conference attendees who are actively looking for a new job (or their first job). It looks really professional and is a good way of firming up a networking opportunity. People in the private sector have known this for years, but many academics are still missing this trick.
What sort of networking?
So, why could a conference be useful to you? As a jobseeker it’s a chance to let as many people as possible know that you are looking for work. I know it sounds desperate, but you never know: you might speak to someone who really needs someone to come and do some teaching at their institution. Don’t shy away from talking to the more senior scholars. They are usually very approachable and friendly.
You also might meet people who are journal editors or readers for big publishing houses. They might come across your work and if you have impressed them at a conference then they’re more likely to give you a chance.
Another sort of connection will be someone you could collaborate with, whose interests are close to yours and who might like to write a joint article or even work on a book together.
Perhaps more important than all of these is the opportunity to share your research with your peers and in doing so you enhance your own reputation and that of your institution. So, make sure you present a good paper, keep to time and know your stuff! And then there’s all the enjoyable social activities that conferences do present, you are allowed to have some fun too!