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How to Prepare for a Professional / Academic Conference (Students)

If you looking to attend a professional or academic conference (e.g. Tapia or Grace Hopper Celebration as a student for the first time, that’s wonderful! There are a few ways to prepare ahead of time to make the most of your time.

  • Create a resume. If you don’t have one or need suggestions, you can check out: . I’m also happy to give feedback
  • Do some background research about the companies that will be at conference.
    • Try to identify ahead of time which companies you might be interested and which you might be a good fit for–you can do this be looking at their website and browsing the internet.
    • Make a list of your top 5-10 companies, and write down some basic notes/facts about the company. The goal is 1) identify the places that are a good match, and 2) enable you to speak with a company representative and show you know a bit about the company.
    • Don’t worry about try to be an expert on the company, but as an example, it would be good to be able to say that company X won an award for cyber security last year, or that company Y just launched a new office focusing on AI (if those are your areas).
    • You can get a good idea of what companies will be at the conference by looking at the supporters page (e.g. Skip all the colleges and universities, and take a look at the companies and government labs
  • Write out / think about why you are a good fit for those top companies–it might be projects you’ve worked on, a topic that you have always loved, etc. Practice speaking out loud about your qualifications and accomplishments. For many people, it is difficult to speak honestly and accurately about their accomplishments.
  • Scope out the conference schedule and find opportunities directly at the conference. There are usually student professional development workshops and talks, workshops or BOFs (birds of a feather) that may be of particular interest. You can create a schedule of things so you miss while doing other career events.
  • Create a portfolio (if applicable to your discipline and you have work to show). GitHub is especially nice for CS projects; custom websites can be good as well. If you don’t have things to post, that’s alright.
  • Network with other students. These are the people who will be your friends and peers when you start working. When you’re working, you will hear of jobs and be able to help refer them, and vice versa. There might also be virtual discussion groups or conference apps that allow for getting to know each other.
  • Have fun! This is a great opportunity so enjoy it. Explore the city and cuisine with some new friends.

Thanks to Kendra Walther for help with this list

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