To conference or not? My leap of faith!

March 13, 2018

Conferences can seem a world away for many.  There are many perceived barriers to going, but I want to share with you my experience of attending, what I got out of it, and why I think you should do the same!


Jump in! You won't be disappointed...

Being a student isn’t easy.  As a ‘mature’ (I certainly don’t feel mature, but I guess 33 counts as such…) student I found the balance of family responsibility and academic pressures difficult to manage.  I found myself being pulled in different directions and all whilst trying as hard as I could to maintain excellent grades and make the most of all opportunities that came my way.  I really needed to make my career change work when I left the business sector to move into the library and information science industry.


So, as a student, when I became aware of the ALIA national conference in Adelaide and all the opportunities that seemed to surround the event, I knew it would be a fantastic chance to meet key movers and industry shakers!  However, I was completely unaware of the costs of travel and tickets to major conferences and I was honestly shocked at the potential financial commitment.


At first it was easy to say that it was too expensive, or too far away, and no one would have blamed me for not going.  I would have carried on with my course and who knows the outcome.  The more I thought about it, though, the more I couldn’t shake the excitement of meeting all these library people, or listening to the intriguing talks. Maybe I would talk to a key note speaker that lived in different city to me and that I would never normally have the chance of meeting.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that this would be fun, engaging and exciting and that the potential benefits could be huge!


So, I entertained the thought of going.  I spoke to my wife and I am one of the lucky few that have a partner that supports me in whatever I do.  She said that if I believed it was important to my career then we would find a way to make it work.  In many respects, I found this a harder response to deal with, because now it was a very real prospect and not just that, if I did go I would there was the added pressure to make sure it really did have a positive impact on my career.

I looked at the bigger picture and took a leap of faith that the cost I was investing then would eventually pay off and put me, and in many respects my family, in a better position.  And it did!  I look back now and my self-funded trip to Adelaide was one of the best things I could have done for my career so far.


Why was this?  Well there were a number of reasons.  It began at the first breakfast where I was introduced to a number of key people in the industry and I sat next to an academic that had presented a research workshop I had taken the day before.  I then spent the next few days quizzing her about the option of beginning a PhD.  At the time I was completing a Master of Information Management but I was aware that if I wanted to do a PhD (that I never really thought was possible for me until; that point) I needed to start planning right then.  To cut a long story short, I now have a letter of acceptance to commence doctoral studies at RMIT next year.  Brilliant. 


I look back now and my self-funded trip to Adelaide was one of the best things I could have done for my career so far.


It was also a catalyst for my professional career too.  I met and spoke to a number of people at ALIA which developed my contact list and network.  Getting myself ‘out there’ and making myself known (albeit very much on the periphery) gave me an appreciation of the kind of exciting, unique and colourful individuals within our industry.  It also paved the way for me to eventually work for ALIA itself.


After my initial trip to Adelaide I had caught the bug! I followed up with attendance at the Information Online conference in Sydney the following year.  During these events I had managed to talk to many of the then current ALIA State Managers.  I must have made an impression, because it eventually lead to my name being put forward to become the new ALIA State Manager for Queensland.  Now, this is a very shortened version of my journey to working for ALIA but my point is that it all began with that initial leap of faith and purchasing that first ticket to an ALIA national conference.


I understand it’s a lot of money and who knows what will happen.  I can only offer my experience.  However, I have been there and it did pay off.  It opened up many conversations and opportunities and I’m so grateful I made that leap.


Consider what’s important to you and see if a national conference like APLIC18 can do that for you.  There are countless networking opportunities, a massive range of culturally relevant and interesting talks, a platform for meeting, talking, learning, understanding, and developing your personal journey.


I understand everyone is different.


I get that I work for the organisation hosting this conference, and if you can't deal with the potential for bias I completely understand.  However, I want you to know that I was a student, I didn't have much money and it was not too long ago that I entered the industry.  I am passionate, I am engaged and I wanted to make my career move a success.  One way I started this was by attending a national conference.  I encourage you to do the same.  If you can’t, then follow on Twitter, or attend one of the wrap up events.  You won’t be disappointed in any case.


There is even the chance to win a grant to APLIC 2018.  The details are here:


…what a fantastic opportunity as you also get to write for InCite too (giving you a publication!).


I’m always happy to have further conversations around this so contact me: and let’s talk.


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© 2017 James Nicholson.  All Rights Reserved.

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