Because everyone should dig their job

Networking Through Professional Organizations

By Sherri Edwards

There are many reasons for attending industry-related meetings and joining organizations or community groups. Participation in organized groups allows us to benefit by learning from the experiences of others, continue our education through participation in seminars or workshops, and keep abreast of developments or trends in our industry. It allows us to meet new people and source candidates for hard to fill positions in our companies. Participating in a community group often offers all the same benefits, and the satisfaction of giving back to the community.

A key reason for involvement with organizations or community groups is for networking opportunities. Participation provides the opportunity to be recognized in your field and noted for your skills, or it may provide the opportunity to get connected with decision-makers of companies. An additional benefit of participation on projects is the potential for learning and the opportunity to expand your skill sets. Improvement in written and oral communication skills, negotiation, collaboration, leadership, assertiveness, conflict resolution and problem solving are likely outcomes from participation, in addition to the development of new relationships, establishment of new networks and education received from membership. 

Perhaps one of the most beneficial rewards of participation is that it allows us to improve our skills as communicators. We learn to work with diverse cultures, ages, interests and learning styles. Learning to function successfully as part of a team is another significant benefit. As the membership in an organization changes, or as the members on a board of directors change, the need is created to become more flexible and open to new ideas. Just as the workplace becomes more and more reliant on an individual's ability to adapt to change and the ability to perform advanced problem solving skills, functioning as part of any organized group allows us to test or improve all of our skills. By failing to become more than superficially involved with a group's activities, we cheat ourselves of some of the most valuable benefits of membership.

Unfortunately, many individuals may be afraid of commitment, believe they do not have enough time, are afraid of being uncomfortable in a new environment, or are simply unaware of the full benefit of participation. Many individuals may discontinue their participation when they begin a new job, or do not plan for and create the time in their schedule while working, but find they are on their own and disconnected from others when they find themselves in a changing employment situation.

Contributing articles of interest for a newsletter, speaking on a topic of interest, maintaining a website, participating on a board of directors or on committees for special projects, volunteering to assist with meeting coordination or fundraising are all ways of becoming more involved that can produce substantial personal rewards and satisfaction.

For the small investment of a few additional hours each month, it is possible to maintain a network of contacts we would not ordinarily have access to, for providing support should your employment (or other) circumstances change, build on your existing skills, learn new skills, get connected with new people and become visible in your profession and community. Aren't you worth it?