Young Professional Guide for Gaining Management Support
As a young professional member of AIAA, you have the unique opportunity to meet and learn from some of the most important people in the business by attending conferences. This online guide is designed to help you gain support and financial backing from your company to become involved in these activities. This online guide has detailed information on:
- Requesting funding (including a sample letter)
- Obtaining mid-level and executive management support
- Maximizing the benefits of attending a conference or committee meeting
- Completing post-conference follow-up activities (including a sample post-conference report)
Benefits of Participation in AIAA
As an AIAA Young Professional, you have unique opportunities available to you. In addition to being able to meet and learn from some of the most important people in the industry at AIAA technical conferences, you also have the ability to present reports at conferences without preparing a formal paper, and to participate on Technical Committees as an Associate Member. These opportunities are not available to anyone other than Young Professionals. You may ask "Why should I attend a conference or committee meeting?" and "How does it benefit me?" By attending an AIAA Technical Conference or an AIAA Technical Committee meeting, you gain the opportunity to:
- Present your own work to others in the industry
- Learn new skills applicable to your job
- Network for current and future career development
- Work with upper management within your organization
- Position your organization for future projects
- Increase your value to your organization
- Gain experience in group dynamics and communication
- Practice your leadership skills
- Increase your competitive advantage
In addition, you will benefit professionally from the process of requesting and obtaining funding from your management. These processes:
- Provide an opportunity for face-to-face contact with your manager
- Show your manager that you are proactive in developing with ways to increase company exposure
- Show your manager that you are proactive in educating yourself on the latest industry innovations
- Offer a significant career development tool
- Provide the opportunity to network with industry leaders
When requesting conference funding from management, your memo or letter should include, at a minimum, the following information:
- Date/time/name/cost of conference
- Your intent to present a paper or report at a conference
- Who will be attending (e.g., potential customers, competitors, etc.)
- How attendance will benefit the company (e.g., can obtain information on a particular technology applicable to company's work; can network with potential customers; learn about competitors' work, etc.)
You may also find it helpful to attach a copy of the flyer about the conference with key topics or speakers highlighted to reinforce your message.
You can modify this Sample Letter to include your specific information. Please keep in mind that the information contained here is for illustrative purposes only, and should be adapted to depict the actual facts.
Obtaining Management Support
After interviewing industry managers and fellow Young Professionals, the following list was compiled on what you can do to gain support from management in your efforts to obtain funding and approval to attend conferences:
— Familiarize your management with AIAA:
- Give them informational literature about the organization.
- Invite them to local AIAA section events.
- Inform them of AIAA technical information you have gained from journals, papers, symposiums, or events.
— Distinguish yourself from others:
- Involve yourself with AIAA at the local level. It will give you the opportunity to network with local industry leaders as well as gain visibility with your company management.
- Take on roles that are visible to customers so that your manager recognizes the networking value of AIAA conferences.
- Be proactive and ask – managers often choose employees to attend a conference or participate in activities at random.
- Be persistent – demonstrating an ongoing interest and a willingness to put in extra effort will often convince management of the benefits available.
- Contact your local AIAA section, the national Young Professional Committee, or other industry leaders to write a letter thanking your manager for providing conference funding.
— Become involved with an AIAA Technical or Standing Committee:
- AIAA committee meetings occur in conjunction with major AIAA conferences. Being on a committee gives your management additional incentives to send you to the conference and additional visibility for the company.
- Find out who within your company is on an AIAA Standing Committee or Technical Committee. Ask them to mentor you. Apply as an Associate Member of a Committee, or apply to be voted in when the member's term expires.
— Become knowledgeable in key subject area:
- Get copies of papers on subjects of interest to you. Contact the authors and develop a rapport.
- Strive to become a subject area expert by asking to work on projects within that area.
- Notify your program or functional manager that you would like to write a technical paper and work with them to determine what topic would benefit you and your group. Get a commitment from them about presenting the paper at a conference.
- Look for new business opportunities within your company to gain credibility and knowledge. One way is to stay current on what proposals the government is issuing in the aerospace arena. This will allow you to identify key customers and technologies to target. Share these observations with your management.
— Anticipate management hurdles:
- Know the cost of a conference before asking to attend.
- Initiate paperwork as soon as possible so your request can be included in the company budget.
- Suggest alternate funding routes to your management (e.g., utilize training budget funds to attend conferences).
Maximizing Conference Attendance
Now that you have obtained the funding to attend the conference, start focusing on how to get the most out of your trip. Here are a few ways you can maximize the advantages of conference attendance:
- Participate in as many functions as possible – forums, panels, exhibits, tours, official dinners, and Young Professional socials. These activities allow you to learn first hand what customers and competitors are doing and afford you the opportunity to meet customers face to face.
- Plan ahead – review papers from previous conferences.
- Don't limit yourself to conference activities. Be proactive in getting to know people by socializing with them at dinners or other informal events. If you don't know of any, organize one.
- Be prepared with an "elevator speech" to introduce yourself.
- Take business cards and trade contact information with people you meet.
- Take note of important information you learn and contacts you make. This will be useful when writing your post-conference trip report.
Post-Conference Follow-Up Activities
Once you have returned from the conference, the work isn't over. A written post-conference report should be submitted to your management. It should summarize why your attendance benefited the company. Include information in your report about important technical information/techniques, industry initiatives, and contacts that you obtained from the conference. You should also highlight any areas that the company may want to pursue further. This report can assist you with laying a solid foundation to attend future conferences.
Use this actual sample Post-Conference Report as a guide and adapt it to fit your conference experiences.
If you have a successful post-conference report you would like to share with other Young Professionals, please forward it to the Young Professional Committee at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, you should consider conducting an informational briefing for those in your company who were not able to attend the event. It could either focus on one specific conference session or provide an overview of the entire conference. It will help distribute the knowledge from the conference as well as make you stand out as an asset to your management.
You are now well-equipped to pursue attending a technical conference. You have insight into how to successfully solicit (and obtain) funding and how to get the most out of a conference. You also know how to close the final loop with your management in a post-conference trip report so you will be able to attend future conferences.
Although this online guide contains a lot of information from industry members, the two biggest assets you will have are your enthusiasm and your persistence. You have to use them to pursue your goals. Good luck, and we hope to see you at the next technical conference!