One of the best ways to advance your career is to attend conferences. Not only do you learn a lot from the speakers, but you also make connections with vendors and peers. However, not every company has the budget to pay for your conference fees plus the travel expenses of attending. This is where miles and points can help advance your career.
Why attend conferences? Education
When you attend conferences that are tailored to your industry or your profession, you will learn about the latest trends and hear how your peers are addressing similar problems in their workplace. Smaller conferences will have one track that all attendees go through, while most are large enough to offer multiple sessions at the same time so you can create your own track to maximize the education opportunities and fill in the gaps of your knowledge.
There are two types of conferences to consider – industry-focused or profession-focused.
- Industry-focused conferences are based on the industry in which you are employed – banking, manufacturing, aerospace, etc.
- Profession-focused conferences are focused on what you actually do for a living – finance, marketing, human resources, sales, etc.
I’d recommend alternating between these two types of conferences so increase your network and expand your opportunities as much as possible.
Pro tip: If you have valuable information or experiences to share, or if you’d like to moderate a panel or emcee the event, many conferences will waive your fees and pay some or all of your travel expenses in exchange for your presentation.
Why attend conferences? Networking
Networking is one of the best ways to find a new job. Sometimes, staying with your current company is not the best way to advance your career. The “loyalty penalty” will limit your annual raises, while new hires to your company are getting paid the market rate, which can be much higher than what you’re making! Where’s the loyalty?!?!
When you’re at conferences, your goal should be to make at least 1 connection with someone above you, a peer, and someone below you.
- Senior-level attendees are often in senior position that make hiring decisions, or at least influence them. They could be the who hires your for your next job!
- Peers make great friends because they’re facing the same difficulties you are and can offer valuable insight on the job market for someone with a similar skillset.
- Junior level connections allow you to “pay it forward” and be a mentor to a young professional. Just like you needed help (now or in the past), so do they. And you never know who will zoom up the ranks and surpass your own career arc.
Networking isn’t just for finding a job, though. Finding people with similar skillsets or knowledge outside your company can be a sounding board for issues you or your company are facing. They may have gone through the same problem recently and can share how they addressed it and what problems they faced when researching solutions!
And how awesome would that be if YOU were the one to solve the company’s problem?
Why attend conferences? Meeting vendors
Yes, vendors are there to sell you on their products. But, when you cultivate relationships the right way, they are also valuable sources of knowledge about industry trends and your competitors. Most companies love it when you can be the resource to share industry knowledge and trends to your co-workers.
Nobody needs to know that your new “friend” at the vendor was the one supplying you with all the intel to meet your boss’ needs! Who’s the hero now? You!
And don’t forget, while meeting with these vendors, it is a perfect opportunity to find out more about the company that you may consider working for the in the future. And if you ever do apply, you already have an inside edge thanks to the new friendships formed in working with their sales’ reps!
Pro tip: Some conferences are completely underwritten and the conference fees, hotel stays, and most meals are paid for by vendors. Yes, that means you’ll have to do some serious “speed dating” of vendors, but it will dramatically reduce your overall expense.
Getting your boss to say “Yes”
Even though we’re 7 years into the recovery from the Great Recession, and US corporations are sitting on the most cash ever… over $1.7 trillion… yes, with a “T”, travel and training budgets still remain tight.
Gone are the days when a manager readily signs off on a multi-day conference that also requires a long (aka expensive) flight and several days’ worth of hotel stays and meals without a fight.
However, if you told your manager that all they needed to approve was the conference fees because you had the hotel and airfare covered, how much easier of a discussion would that be?
Better yet, find a conference that covers the cost of attendance by vendors or by you volunteering to speak in or moderate a session, then use your miles and points to fly and stay there. Then, tell your boss that you were able to get the conference taken care of this year so that you can save the budget to cover another conference later this year or next year. You’ll come across as someone who is focused on the company’s bottom line, and your boss will be much more inclined to sign off on allowing you to extend your trip a day or two to explore the city without making you use any vacation days! #winning
Miles and points to the rescue
Now that you have your boss’ approval to attend the conference. How are you going to fly and stay there without spending your hard-earned money?Instead, we want to use miles and points as the means to cover those expenses so we can obtain our boss’ approval to attend the conferences that will improve our knowledge and increase our network.
We will be using miles and points to cover those expenses so we can attend the conferences that will improve our knowledge and increase our network.
In most cases, you can pick up one hotel credit card and one airline credit card (referral link) and have the miles and points earned from their sign-up bonuses cover most, if not all, of your travel expenses for the conference you want to attend.
When saving money this way, flexible may be needed, based on the size of the conference and the host hotel. If the conference is big enough, the host hotel may be unavailable for points redemptions due to the room blocks that the conference has booked at the conference rate.
After I sign up for a conference, I book my rooms at a nearby hotel to secure a place to stay, then I’ll attempt to switch to the host hotel as the conference dates approach. A few of the blocked rooms are often released and become available for points redemptions if not enough people are booking at the hotel.
If you would like help picking the best cards for your situation, please complete our Free Travel Advice form so we can schedule 30 minutes to talk.
Rewards Credit Cards
- Earn rewards with your everyday spend, and get a little closer to your next vacation.
- Use rewards to book hotels, air travel, gift cards, or to cover travel expenses like Uber.
- Loyalty pays off — earn double rewards when you use your card to book a trip with your favorite hotel or airline.
- Enjoy additional travel perks like travel insurance, waived foreign transaction fees, and airport lounge access.
- Terms vary by partner offer. Please see each bank’s application for terms and conditions.
The Bottom Line
Don’t let a lack of money or the stinginess of corporate budgets get in the way of your career. Using miles and points is a great to make attending a conference a win-win for you and your company. You gain industry knowledge and become a more valuable employee, and your manager can keep his expense budget low. You never know, something you learn at that conference may generate a huge win for you and the company. And who would be the hero? YOU!
Have you ever used your personal airline miles or hotel points to get your boss to approve your trip? What was their reaction? How did you feel about the situation? We’d love to hear about your experience!