It’s important to develop and update your skills and knowledge throughout your finance and accounting career. On-the-job training is a good way to get started, but more training is needed to sustain professional growth and avoid stagnation.
That's where professional conferences come in. They offer excellent opportunities to focus on skills directly related to your career. The American Payroll Association’s Annual Congress, for instance, offers education and training opportunities for payroll professionals, and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) Conference presents topics devoted to management accountants and financial professionals, from new practitioners to seasoned professionals.
Here are just some of the benefits you can find by attending industry conferences for career development:
A professional conference gives you the opportunity to gain vital knowledge that’s otherwise not available on the job. Compliance updates, best practices and new career field techniques are a few of the things you can learn at a professional conference.
For those career fields with certifications — and for finance and accounting professionals, there are many to choose from — some of the workshops will offer a chance to earn recertification credits. These credits are necessary to keep your certification up-to-date.
Networking is a great benefit of professional conferences. You can attend lectures, and then linger afterward to mingle with the presenters and participants. By connecting with other professionals in your field, you have an opportunity to share ideas and knowledge with others. You can exchange business cards, build friendships and expand your network.
When you join professional organizations, you often find discounted registration at the events they host. The Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA), for example, offers lower fees for its national and regional conferences as a benefit of membership. As a result of the reduced cost, you may be able to attend more conferences, providing more opportunities to network and update your knowledge of accounting standards and trends.
Can’t get to the conference? Often, conference organizers will offer webinars and conference recordings. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), for example, has downloadable slides from webinars. Robert Half has on-demand webinars, too.
Cisco WebEx also has an extensive catalog of free webinars relating to the business industry, including ones geared toward developing soft skills like leadership abilities. Some accounting news publications — Accounting Today, AccountingWeb and CPA Practice Advisor — offer free webinars.
These are just a few ways professional conferences help with career development. What have been your experiences at professional conferences? What did you gain by attending?
Mark Coindreau is director of public relations, video and chapter relations for the American Payroll Association (APA).