I read that professional organizations are a top venue for networking. I’m considering joining one but it’s not cheap so I wondered if you could verify the effectiveness of these associations for networking.
The Career Doctor responds:
Cited as by far the most effective networking venue by those responding to a survey for my partner’s (Katharine Hansen) book A Foot in the Door professional organizations truly provide superb networking settings. As career counselor John Clark points out “members of professional organizations are by definition in touch with their professions and tend to be aware of upcoming openings first. Developing relationships within this framework is more than worth the effort.”
“Cultivating professional relationships with colleagues in my industry has afforded me invaluable opportunities to collect new ideas business cards and hear about career opportunities” points out Ohio State University career counselor BJ O’Bruba. “The informal setting of conferences breeds a friendly and pro-networking environment.” Echoes Vic Snyder a career counselor at the University of Washington “Having been in leadership positions in two different professional associations I have consistently heard of job openings. [Professional association membership] has also helped me with social connections since I am not overly extroverted. [Membership] gave me opportunities to be visible and to demonstrate abilities and strengths in a context that was relevant to most of the professionals in my field.”
To maximize professional associations and organizations as a networking opportunity be more than just a member. Volunteer to edit the organization’s newsletter or coordinate the next big event. Pitch in with committee work. Offer to be program chair. Your active participation will produce indelible bonds with other members as well as allow them to see what you can do. “The best results are obtained if I become an active part of the association — take a board position volunteer to host a committee etc.” reports consultant Lisa LeVerrier. Vic Snyder relates that he met his current boss when he served on a professional organization committee addressing issues regarding the future of work. “I learned of her work philosophy and she mine” he recounts. “So far it is the best match I’ve had in a work setting.”
Professional organizations often hold events specifically designed for networking as Christine Cangiano found out. Cangiano now director of a college career center recalls that her first job out of college resulted from attending a professional association’s networking night. “Because I did not have enough time to talk to everyone I took down the names and numbers of the others and called them after the event” Cangiano relates. “One of the individuals thought that what I was doing took so much initiative that she offered me a part-time job. I took it and a month later they hired me full-time.”