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Six Paths to Continuing Your Engineering Education (Part Two)
Conferences, professional education, and local seminars are all part of your continuing education as an engineer.
One of the great perks of working for a company or university is being sent to a conference. Your employer pays you to go, and you get to sit around and learn, or walk around and network. Sure your company wants you bring these resources back to them and your job, but there's also just as much benefit to yourself.
Technology conferences are usually jam-packed with presentations about the newest technologies and scientific discoveries. If you want to stay current in your field, you may need to attend at least one key conference every year.
If you can't make it to a conference, you could just purchase a copy of its proceedings, which has the information, but you may lose out on some of the in-person benefits of attending the event. There's lots to see and hear and learn at a conference -- the technical presentations are just half of it. There are people to meet, exhibits to see, gossip to hear, and demonstrations to watch.
Also, some conferences offer a day or two of workshops as part of the broader event. These hands-on learning opportunities can give you a chance to learn much more about a technology, and may even offer Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) or valuable certifications.
Professional Education & Local Seminars
Often, your company could decide to send you to a specific training event or seminar. These could be local or you might have to travel. In either case, you could find yourself in an intense, concentrated classroom-type setting, learning about a topic over the course of a couple hours or days.
These events are great networking opportunities because they draw in people from across the country, or from other companies in your area.
They can also broaden your perspective. Don't just concentrate on learning events in your core technology. Try taking a marketing seminar, or a professional education class in management. You might learn something that could send you climbing the corporate ladder.
A Few Things to Consider
Whether you're attending a conference, class or seminar, it's important to remember that you are there as a representative of your company. They paid for you to be there, so you need to make sure that you pay them back by behaving professionally, knowing the company line on key issues, gathering potential leads to bring back to your sales or marketing team, and not speaking out of school. (You'd be surprised how quickly some of this stuff can get back to your boss.)
No matter what you're doing, though, remember: by learning at these events, you're making yourself a more valuable employee, and that value should be reflected in growth in your career. Stop learning, though, and your career may be dead in the water.
Go to Part 1.
John Platt is a marketing consultant and journalist living in coastal Maine.
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