In assisting civil engineers with their professional development efforts over the years, I have had many civil engineers ask me if it is worth their while to invest their money in attending industry conferences, especially if their employers won’t pay for them to go.
In my opinion, the answer is yes.
Here are three reasons why I think attending industry conferences is worth the time and money spent.
1. Learning is key to success
I have interviewed many successful engineers through my various engineering podcasts and one very common theme among them is that they never stop learning. They are usually voracious readers and try to learn through as many avenues as they can.
Conferences provide an easy way to stay up-to-date on technical topics and trends. They can also provide you with a time-effective way to earn professional development hours toward your professional engineering license.
That being said, if you can afford to go to a conference prior to obtaining your license, the knowledge will still be helpful in keeping you at the forefront of the information in your industry.
2. Building your network will drive your civil engineering career
If you haven’t figured it out by now, your civil engineering career success will be directly related to the quality of the network of people you build up around you.
Your network may provide you with the best possible employment options throughout your career. Another benefit of a strong network is that it may be a huge source of business development for you as you grow in your career. Business development, or your ability to bring new business in to your firm, can make or break your civil engineering career.
While there are some great online tools – LinkedIn, for example – that can help you build your network, there is nothing like getting out there and meeting people face to face. Conferences give you a very time-efficient way to network with a large number of people in one place at one time.
So while you might meet people every so often in civil engineering groups on LinkedIn, a conference affords you access to many people in your industry at one time. In a world where we are all busy, we need to capitalize on opportunities like these.
3. Building expertise in a field is invaluable
One of the most important things you can do as a civil engineer is to build your expertise around a specific topic. A conference can help you do that in multiple ways.
A conference will give you access to seminars, possibly related to your specific field of expertise, that will allow you to further your knowledge in that field. Additionally, a conference provides a forum in which to meet other experts in your field and learn from them as well as build long-term relationships with them.
A conference also gives you the opportunity to speak in front of other civil engineering professionals on your topic of expertise, which will further build your credibility.
Anthony Fasano, P.E., M.ASCE, is the author of Engineer Your Own Success, co-host of The Civil Engineering Podcast and co-founder of The Seller-Doer Academy for Civil Engineers. Email him your career questions to [email protected].
I worked in the public sector for almost 40 years. My employers never paid for me to attend a conference for which they were not an official sponsor/creator. When I even see the question posed here I tend to get upset with those who say “if my employer won’t pay I won’t go”. To me this is just another way of saying they have no pride in their profession and are not really interested in learning things which would cause them to become a better engineer. While employer payment is wonderful, attending on one’s own is well worth it as a way to professional betterment and showing everyone that the engineer really does care about themselves and the career they have chosen.