Get Paid To Attend Workshops
July 30, 2007 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Is there a job that will pay me to attend workshops and conferences? Where can I find such a job?

I'm a young person and I LOVE going to different workshops and conferences. I just came back from one in Sydney and I'm going to a UN Youth Assembly event in New York next week. I love anything to do with young people, social change, culture, and travel, and I have had many great experiences with these sorts of things in the past few years.

The main issue, though, is money. Some of these events are all-expenses-paid (the Sydney one even covered flights AND gave a $50 honorarium) but most of them cost quite a bit of money, especially on flights. Right now I'm studying in uni, so getting a job that allows me for time to travel is a bit tricky, especially since I have to maintain a certain level of attendance for visa purposes (I'm an international student). I try to find ones that are near to me and those I can afford, but the best ones are often far far away.

Another main issue is visas. Being on a Bangladeshi passport makes it a pain in the arse to get visas. The embassies' main concern is money - can I afford to pay for this? So far I've managed to be sponsored by my parents, but I really don't want to depend on them for money. Saying "I'll work out the money when I get there" doesn't instill confidence though.

So I figured that the best way to sort both issues out is to get a job or go into careers that involve workshops and conferences. What can I do and how do I get such an awesome job? I'm not particularly academic so I don't want to be a professor or Ph.D. or whatever, but I'm open to attending academic conferences if possible. Is there some sort of magazine that reviews conferences and sends people out, much like travel writing? How else can I get sponsored/funded/paid to attend workshops?

I'm also open to facilitating workshops and such, and the workshop-attendance doesn't have to be the core component of the job though I'd like enough flexibility to travel whenever I choose. Volunteering is an option, but money would be the main issue then. If there was some sort of "angel investor" who would sponsor me for a few years, or maybe a company that would sponsor me the same way some companies sponsors athletes, great - though I don't know how they'll get any benefit from sponsoring me.

Any ideas?
posted by divabat to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Find people who write specialized newsletters that cover specific industries or interests. Contact them and ask them if they need a writer to cover any industry conferences. If you are really lucky they will cover your expenses. Have writing samples available that are approprite to the style of the pubication. Of course, you would have to cobble together a bunch of these to have any hope of making a living at it.
posted by metahawk at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2007

There are a lot of different paths you could pursue. What comes to mind first for me is marketing or business development. In my company, the marketing people & business development people frequently attend conferences and trade shows, and whether its running a booth or just walking around, the entire purpose is to meet new contacts, get a feel for the competition, and mingle with people in the industry.
posted by tastybrains at 8:53 PM on July 30, 2007

Most jobs above the menial level have some potential opportunity for conference attendance, but it won't happen often. They have this idea that they're sending you to the conference for some purpose, eg learning to do your current job better.

Actually this is in general the case: if they didn't have to pay you to do it, it wouldn't be work. You can have a job you like to do, clients you like to serve, or a boss you like to work for; if you're really lucky, you might get two of these. Three is not impossible but is nearly unheard-of, because people don't quit such jobs unless they have to, and you have to be inordinately lucky to replace one.

However all that falls on the parade is not rain. There is of course the possibility of being a workshop organizer, or conference centre employee, or similar convenor of conferences. But being responsible for anything that goes wrong at a conference--or on a cruise ship, or a ski resort, or whatever--has a way of dampening the fun.

The career that would most fit your requirements is as some sort of conference-based consultant hired to facilitate some part of the purpose or the entertainment at a conference. Presenter of a product (you need sales skills), focus group convenor (sales/statistics/psychology) as you mentioned above, a motivational or educational speaker (psychology/sales, or an in-depth knowledge of a fascinating subject combined with an ability to explain it well), comedian (natural talent), spokesmodel (good looks), or some kind of minor celebrity invited to lend your gloss to the event (sheer luck).

As metahawk said, there's event journalism, but you'd have to pay for your own attendance until you developed a very good reputation. And again, looking for the best-selling story can have a way of dampening the fun.

That said, I hope you achieve it. :) Fortunately most of those listed above are fairly easy to try out and even easier to get out of if you don't like them.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:11 PM on July 30, 2007

My brother was the editor of the weekend edition of a general Israeli newspaper, and he wrote a couple of articles for the paper too. One time he got sent to Miami to cover some conference or other, and the flight and hotel stay were payed by the paper. Maybe a job in journalism?
I imagine that if you were to work in technology you would get to go to all their conferences.
posted by alon at 9:18 PM on July 30, 2007

Become a researcher. I have to go to bloody conferences all the time (the thrill wears off pretty fast when it's 5 or 6 trips a year).
posted by fshgrl at 9:24 PM on July 30, 2007

I have been in business development/marketing and went to a lot of conferences and workshops. I was specifically involved in event coordination and I planned and attended a lot of workshops and events all over the US. I enjoyed the traveling and sometimes getting to hear great speakers, but got pretty tired of standing around in booths and receptions schmoozing. I also had to wear a company polo shirt while attending/working all of these events, which always bugged me.

I'd say, get yourself a management level position as an event coordinator for a large company.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:27 PM on July 30, 2007

Higher education student affairs administration!

I was a student resident assistant at my university and our full-time, non-student residential staff went to conferences at least once a year focused on just what you describe - social change, culture, young a university setting. Basically, our job in the Residential Life Office was helping uni students living on campus have the fullest, most fulfilling life possible, something we took really seriously and, I think, did a pretty good job with. We worked on conflict resolution, running organizations, and being near-peers for new uni students, in addition to all the other strategic/managerial/planning stuff that goes into running a community of 500 people. If you think about it, a uni dorm is a really complex system with all kinds of people who often have radically different cultures and ways of life thrown together and made to succeed, so a deep knowledge of diversity and being able to relate to student experiences is essential - and from this and previous posts, it sounds like you've got all these things.

Additionally, working at a university often means relatively OK-to-great benefits and other perks, at least here in the US. AND because the job required me to live on campus, in my case at least, they paid the rent! Many of our staff moved around to other positions every few years as well, so you wouldn't need to worry about ending up stuck anywhere or even in this field; managing things at universities, if you can handle the bureaucracy, is probably one of the most fulfilling missions you can undertake: because of your work, hundreds of students from all backgrounds are given an extra boost toward achieving their goals. And had I not become an English teacher, it's the field I would have gone into. Here's an example of a Master's program that prepares people for the job - and there are lots of others.

And I have a bunch of friends who've excelled in the field and I'd be happy to ask around for you - e-mail's in the profile!
posted by mdonley at 9:48 PM on July 30, 2007

Grad student/researcher. The thrill doesn't wear off for me.
posted by k8t at 10:11 PM on July 30, 2007

I'd take mdonely's advice with a grain of salt. Our full-time professional staff got to go once every three years, if they were lucky. While they were actually doing their jobs, they were on-call 24/7 for all kinds of crisis situations. Student Affairs Administration can be rewarding, but also hell.

Why not -run- the conferences? There are lots of conferences that are organized by events companies, look for the conferences that you thought were particularly well run, and work for those companies.
posted by lilithim at 11:13 PM on July 30, 2007

Nthing grad student/researcher, and I'd encourage you to look at fellowships in public policy. Young people in my field, tobacco control/public health, both academics and activists, are in force at our national and international conferences. It is a very international field which has a diversity of attendees of very differing interests and experiences, and funding.
posted by Riverine at 12:15 AM on July 31, 2007

I was also going to suggest higher education, but international student recruitment, rather than mdonley's suggestion. Certainly I've had some contact with this in Australia and it involves lots of flying about to exhibitions, dealing with young people etc etc. Go talk to someone in the international office at your university - you won't get the travelling around job instantly. You may be able to get some office work there now that could lead to work in this area - essentially it is a marketing job. ALso marketing for exchange programs, internship programs etc managed by companies.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:34 AM on July 31, 2007

Good point, lilithim. Universities in the United States, when public, are controlled by the individual states themselves, all of which have varying levels of money and levels of commitment to college students, which determines everything from how many students live in a dorm to how many conferences student affairs folks get to attend, as well as the legal responsibilities for live-in student affairs staff. That said, there were also regular 9-5 jobs in student affairs at my campus in addition to the more intense on-call jobs lilithim mentions. Perhaps a similar thing exists in Oz? Chat with anyone who works with university residence life and see where they point you.
posted by mdonley at 1:22 AM on July 31, 2007

What tastybrains said is basically my exact job description. I have a senior marketing title, and I go to 7 or 8 awesome conferences a year. Sometimes I'm working the event, which means the company shirt and setting up exhibits and general "booth dolly" activities. Other times, I'm "just" an attendee, which means the luncheons and round tables and hearing the famous speakers and networking and learning cool new stuff.

I did some event work in my 20's also. With experience on both sides, I can say that the marketing/business development route will take longer and be far more circuitous -- but will be a plusher work experience if you land it. (Sometimes, I can't believe they pay me to do this job.)

You could embark on the event planning route right now, which is pretty straightforward, but there will be years of being the person who stays up till 4 am stuffing registration packets for an 8am desk opening... or the runner who doesn't get to see the event because she's assigned to shadow the Famous National Speaker as on-site assistant all day... or the one who conceives the fabulous idea for the themed opening-night reception, only to have your boss later take the credit. There's a lot of scut work and dues-paying on the front end, in event management.

There have been some great career paths already suggested upthread. You might also look into tourism as an industry. They travel a lot, obviously, and they have lots of conferences as well. Tourism development orgs are often non-profits -- which come with a whole other host of work issues -- but that could mean that you can make yourself valuable earlier than you might in a big company.

Emerging democracy might also be an area with lots of opportunity for someone who wanted to travel and be working for social change. International HR could also be a venue that allows for lots of travel, if fewer conferences. I believe that at this moment, there is a field poised to open wide for people who are skilled at facilitating the commingling of multiple business cultures under one global employer's roof.

And, you might as well start right now in polishing the skills that will make you valuable in any of these fields: be well-read and able to speak about current events... become a great public speaker to groups of all sizes... learn how to be an active listener and how to successfully relate to people interpersonally. It might even be possible for you to convert your current experiences into a paper or presentation that you could submit, and start to build up your reputation as a conference speaker.
posted by pineapple at 6:39 AM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend has a library position that emphasizes "professional development," and is geared toward getting younger librarians into the field. As such, she goes to a lot of conferences. Look for positions that emphasize professional development, and you'll get to go to the trade shows.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 AM on July 31, 2007

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