A friend of mine recently attended a “young professionals” group in hopes of doing some networking in a new town…only to find that he was the only person under forty at the meeting. Networking in any capacity can certainly be enjoyable and useful. However, an evening can be better spent if you can find professional organizations in your area that are more tailored to your needs. Here are some tips for finding good professional organizations in your area, and for discerning which ones can be most helpful to your career.
A great place to start your professional organization search is through your city’s website. The Chamber of Commerce or Area Development groups should have a good directory of local organizations on their websites. If the list seems out of date, don’t hesitate to call or email someone at the city. Most cities have a dedicated staff for helping people new to the area, and they would be glad to help you out. Contact information for the appropriate person should be pretty easy to find on your city website under the “welcome” area.
If the city website is too obvious for you, try sleuthing your way through your local paper or social media sites. Both of these are great tools for locating upcoming events, which most professional organizations should have regularly. Look not only for events held by professional organizations, but also look for events sponsored by these organizations. Although a holiday toy drive might not seem like a professional development event or a great networking outlet, it could be backed by a great organization that you could be a part of.
After gleaning the names of these organizations from various sources, it is time to decide which ones will be a good fit for you and your networking needs. Checking out the kinds of events they host is one great indicator of an organization’s involvement in the community. Attending one of these events is also a great way to feel out the group without plunging into a full-blown meeting situation.
Another great possible test is the group’s website. A website that hasn’t been recently updated, or is poorly designed, may be a sign that the group is not very active (or very tech-savvy). Some great groups don’t have a great website, so this test shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. However, it is a good starting point. Likewise, check out the groups on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. An active social media following can indicate a group that is active in the community—and probably fun, too!
How did you find your professional organization? And what are your networking tips for others? Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Aidan Jones