Whenever you get the chance, attend a professional conference. The networking potential alone makes it worth the time away from work. In addition, learning the latest and greatest in your field can be immediately applied when you return to your job. Finally, you can get continuing education credit from many conferences that can help you advance your career.
You will meet people from all over the city, state, region, country, or the world at professional conferences. The few minutes before a seminar starts, the conversations at the beginning and ending reception dinners, and drinks after the conference ends for the day are all the perfect opportunities to exchange ideas and simply meet new people in your field who are interested in advancing and sharing new ideas. Networking at a conference can help you land your next job as well. Who you know is one of the most important aspects of learning about and landing new positions.
Employers like to see that you care enough about your field to go to conferences. It shows that you are interested in what is going on in it and that you want to learn more. An employee who does not want to improve himself and who thinks he knows everything there is to know about a topic is not beneficial to any employer. Conferences provide the opportunity for you to add another item to your resume that shows you are serious about your work.
Lastly, keep track of the talks that you attend at the conference. When you register, find out if there is a form you need to use to record them. Turn it in after the conference is over. You may have to pay an application/registration fee, but you will receive continuing education credits from accredited and respected professional organizations in return. This looks good when you're coming up for a promotion or when you set out to find a new job with more responsibility. If you're going back to college, those CEUs may even count as college credit from work/training experience.
Conferences are the perfect way to advance your career if you are diligent about attending, recording the seminars you attend, and networking with other conference attendees.