I just got back from a National Resume Writer Association (NRWA) Conference that was held in Charleston, SC. I love Charleston: the gardens, the history, the food, the beach and harbor. The shrimp and grits, spanish moss, sweetgrass baskets, andcamellias. All these make Charleston one of my favorite places.

But that is not what I want to discuss. I really enjoyed going to the conference. We had sessions Wednesday through Saturday, and I have to admit my brain was full. The sessions covered topics that I am very interested in and applied directly to the job seekers that I work with. Conferences provide an opportunity to learn up-to-date strategies and best practices that other people in the field are using. They also provide you a chance to hear from experts that you are not likely to meet or hear from in other ways.

But the biggest reason I enjoyed the conference was the people that I met. We were able to discuss at the table how our work and lives are going with others who really understand. There were also opportunities to interact with each other between and after the workshops. I found these discussions to be very valuable and revealing into the industry. It is one thing to read about what someone does, it is another to speak with others who do the work you desire.

It is interesting to see how different the peoples’ jobs and employers were. Many writers were self-employed or worked for small companies. Some worked for government agencies. But usually there was a desire to help people, sometimes even at the detriment of the business.

Resume writers are a diverse group with wide differences in ability, experience and professionalism. Being a member of an association does not guarantee expertise, but is does usually suggest a high degree of caring about doing their best.

A new development that we are beginning to see with conferences is that some are going to be virtual. They will be like a series of webinars or group chat rooms where you can attend from the comfort of your home. Since travel and gas cost are rising, as well as our lives seem to be getting busier, having conferences on line is a very attractive idea.

I do see some negatives. First, we are already having less face-to-face contact with other people, especially peers. Many resume writers work from home and often interact with their clients online. There is a big advantage to interactive with people who share an interest.

Another negative is that by going to another location you can better separate yourself from the distractions that bombard us. Yes, most of the attendees were still tethered to their smart phones /notebooks / laptops, but they were still better able to focus on their reasons for coming.

I hope that we can take advantage of both types of conferences. Seeing the virtual conference as a way to complement the conferences that are more costly and inconvenient can allow us to increase our knowledge and best practices.

I strongly advise you to find an association in your industry and become a part of it. Many of them allow you to earn a certification that will provide additional training and verify your abilities to your clients. It is important to do your research; all certifications are not the same. I found that a good way to determine which certification to get is look at your peers and see what they have. Then ask them (Yes, actually speak with them. Okay, you CAN email them but since my whole post is about meeting people, who don’s expect me to advocate email, do you?) if the certification was worth it.

We are in a period where who you know and what you know are both important.  Our jobs, technology, and our world are all changing at an ever increasing pace. Conferences and certifications are two ways we can stay up to date in our fields. Good luck in your growth.