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How to Get the Most out of Working with Professional Associations for Career Advancement

Person A

Person A is a recent college graduate with a degree in engineering. She is advised to get involved with a professional association as a way to make connections to launch her career. She diligently goes online and finds an engineering organization near her and also finds an upcoming program in her area of interest. She enrolls online, pays the $35. event fee and feels good that she is making progress. She drives to the event, signs in and awkwardly heads into the meeting room, and knowing no one, looks to buy a glass of wine ($5) and get some cheese and crackers. She nods hello to a couple of people standing around, then heads to the presentation area. The talk is somewhat interesting and when it’s over she tries to talk to the presenter but there are many people ahead of her so she calls it a night and goes home. Zero leads. Zero connections. And has spent $40 on entry and wine and about $10 on gas. Not a profitable or productive strategy for her job hunt!

Person B

Person B has the same new engineering degree and was also advised to get involved with a professional association. But she had been given more comprehensive advice. After she researched to find a relevant and local professional association, she was also advised to identify the leaders of the local group and contact them personally. They are volunteer leaders and are typically very interested in helping prospective members, especially younger entry level professionals, and they also want to boost the group’s membership by being helpful and accessible. So when she calls both the membership chair and the Vice President of Programs, both offer to introduce her to other members. She also shared with them what kind of positions she was interested in, some of her top skills and achievements, and a list of her target companies. She explained that she really would like to meet people who worked at those companies. The VP Membership was impressed with all of her preparation and gave her a waiver on payment for the first event and suggests they meet a few minutes before the event to become better acquainted. She has also been coached to offer to volunteer her services to the organization. She is advised that in the career building process, the best approach is to give and to take; to show that she understands reciprocity and even though she is a newcomer, there are probably ways she can assist. In fact, the VP Programs appreciates her offer and suggests she work the registration desk to both help the group, and as a way to meet other members.

So when she shows up at the event she has two people who are waiting to meet her! They even have a badge prepared with her name on it and she is now an official part of the group as a volunteer. They introduce her to several people and by the time the program starts she has collected half a dozen business cards and a couple of job leads as well. She also knows to extend LinkedIn invitations to everyone she meets. In fact, after the second event she attended she made contact with a manager in an engineering firm on her target

List. There was an opening and by building a relationship with that hiring manager through the bond of the professional association, she was able to get her resume in directly, going around the big black hole of online submission, and she eventually got the job after several interviews!

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