Q: I want to attend one of the national black professional conferences this year. How do I show my employer that it’s a valuable resource?
A: You must first help your boss overcome his or her fear that it is an exclusionary event. “When you say the Black MBAs, Accountants or Engineers, often people only hear the word ‘black,'” says Sandra Raye Mitchell, president of Maximum Organizational Effectiveness Inc., a San Francisco-based management consulting firm. “Granted, you will be networking with other African Americans,” notes Mitchell, “but the information you share is likely to be color blind. It’s up to you to show how attending can benefit you and the company.”
Stress that the conference will help you be more effective, while offering your company the opportunity to build new resources.
But even if you have support from your supervisor, your co-workers may feel it’s a boondoggle. To counter that sentiment, share the learning. “If the convention is local, invite a co-worker to attend a seminar or event with you,” suggests Mitchell.
While there, try to gather as much information as possible and use it creatively when you return. For example, you can share what you’ve learned in workshops with the rest of your team, or let your purchasing department know how to get in touch with a specialized vendor.
Don’t forget to send thank-you notes to those who sponsored you. Mention the types of contacts you made, how your development was expanded and how your attendance showed the company’s commitment to diversity and professional development.