How to land job offers at conferences
Through intentionality and pre-planning, you can usually get what you want.
As a graduate student & young professional, I have attended about 5–6 conferences. Though that’s not a huge amount, I made the most of those experiences by using them to connect with experts in my field, winning a few awards and landing an internship offer which ultimately led to my dream job.
Most of the work I put in to achieving these goals went on way before I decided to attend the conference. Here is the methodology I followed:
Set intentions, and choose conferences and events that will serve you
If your school or company is willing to sponsor you to attend a conference, think carefully about which one you would like to attend. If you don’t go with specific purposes in mind, it can feel like a waste of time and may not serve you. Sometimes the most prestigious or competitive conference is not always the best one for what you want. For example, I won a few awards at some low to mid-tier conferences where I didn’t have excessive competition. The awards came with prize money, and hiring managers still noted them on my resume.
Research opportunities ahead of time
To get my internship, I attended a conference specifically intended for companies in my field of study. Before the start of the conference, I researched all the member companies that would be attending. From these companies, I bookmarked job requisitions that I thought would be the best fit for me, based on my interests. If you know what your dream job is and whether it is hiring, you have a much higher chance of success when asking for it.
I also knew that there would be awards given to the best presenter in each session, so I looked up the judging criteria and tweaked my presentation to suit.
Once at the conference, be completely present and ask for what you want
Once I finished giving my talk, several people from companies I was interested in came to talk to me. I engaged with them as best as I could, and at the end of each conversation, I made sure to explicitly mention that I was actively seeking summer internships. Some people automatically gave me their contact info so that I could send them my resume; if they didn’t, I asked politely if they had a business card so I could keep in contact.
That night at the conference banquet, the best presenters in each session were announced and given awards. Thanks to adhering to the judging criteria, I was one of them. To finish reinforcing any positive impressions, I followed up that night with the contacts I made earlier. After returning to my hotel room I immediately sent them not only my resume, but links to the particular internships I wanted at their companies. I also included a brief sentence in my email about why I would be a good fit for that particular position.
Within a few days, I got a call from HR at one of the companies I was interested in, for the very internship that I’d specified in one of my emails.
Flash forward six months: I took the internship, and because it had indeed been targeted to my exact skills and interests, I was given an offer to return to the same position as a full-time employee.