June 4, 2010

I have had a few online conversations recently with people who are trying to decide whether to attend journalism conventions this year.

It is not an easy call. Registration, airfare and hotel can easily cost up to $2,000. But the networking and development opportunities can’t be beaten.

If people say they would go to a convention only if they are sure it will get them a job, I suggest they stay home. Conventions are really more about careers than jobs. They are not quick fixes. They are long-term investments, and that is the best way to approach them.

As the recruiter with the Detroit Free Press, I led a team of about 30 into the UNITY 2004 convention in Washington, D.C. We had no job openings at the time. But, because we took a long-term approach to hiring, we were satisfied that about 10 of the hires we had over the next year came from that convention.

Job-seekers should approach conventions that way, too. Spacer Spacer

If you’re going, resolve to make some long-term contacts that you will maintain, and use the workshops to learn skills that can take you into future jobs.

A couple of times this year, I have attended training events and people have asked me whether, now that I am not a full-time recruiter, it is worth it to me to pay my own way — as most people do. I tend to answer that it all depends on what I do after the seminar or conference.

The conferences are not an end or even a quick means to an end. They take work, and it takes time for the work to pay off. If you are looking for a quick fix, a convention won’t be it. But the lessons you learn and the people you meet could change the course of your career.

Poynter’s Colleen Eddy and I will be offering some career coaching at the AAJA convention in August. We hope to see you there. I also plan to attend the Online News Association conference in October.

Coming Monday: One business card, or two?

Do you have a career question? E-mail Joe for an answer.

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Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website. From that, he published…
Joe Grimm

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