I was thinking recently that I need to get into the habit of looking for things to write about on this blog. Lo and behold, the first thing came up over the last few days.
But first, let’s step back a bit. Until recently, my wife and I worked, her full-time, me very part-time, at a local university. The head of our school, who wasn’t there for very long, became famous (at least between my wife and me) for referring to conference visits as “academic tourism”. We never understood this really. For us, conferences serve many purposes. They allow you to keep up with the latest thinking, meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, get new ideas and also to network. For freelancers, that last one is really important. It is extremely hard to get to decision-makers in organisations you might want to work for, and many jobs are not publicised well. I have picked up various bits of work as the result of contacts made via conferences and online. My wife has had career-changing opportunities resulting from her determination to attend the important conferences in her field. You also need to be able to walk the walk of course, so professional development and a good CV are vital.
Why am I writing this? Oh yes, good question! I had my summer more planned out than I have ever had this year. Our holiday was organised more than two weeks before we needed to leave (best part of two months before in fact), I had some work organised in advance (very unusual for my Augusts) and I had plans for doing some admin and marketing activities. Then, completely out of the blue I get a message from a contact of a contact: “Are you available in August for teacher-training in Tunisia?”. Er, yes, I think so. That was last Friday. Today is Monday and it looks like I will be on the plane on Saturday!
I will doubtless post about the experience once it is over, but the point is, both freelancers and employees need to cultivate a professional network. While this can be done online, face-to-face can be very productive. Decide what the best conference would be for you to attend regularly, and attend it regularly. Try and present at that conference. Carve out a niche so that people come to you when they are thinking about that area of their business. Freelancers may get work out of it: they may even get full-time employment. Employees may be able to escape full-time employment or transfer to a better job.
The person who I have to thank for this gig is Tim Thompson. My wife met him in Vladivostok and they have been able to introduce each other to opportunities to be a plenary speaker at various conferences. He writes a very interesting blog that you can find at https://www.timthompsonelt.com/tims-blog