Industry associations are a job seeker’s best friend—or at least they should be.
There are thousands of associations that cater to professionals in virtually every industry, from the American Society of Civil Engineers to the American Marketing Association. Name a profession and it probably has a group, and there might be a local chapter in your area.
Unfortunately, in my experience, not enough people join these groups, and those who join often fail to take full advantage of their membership.
Don’t make that mistake! Here are my tips for making the most of a professional association’s local chapter (these can also apply to involvement in the national associations, too).
1. Join a committee, serve on the board or volunteer in an individual capacity.
I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have time for that. I’m busy looking for a job!” However, these activities are not mutually exclusive. Did you know that interacting with other volunteers is a great way to build relationships, which can lead to connections with employers of interest?
Also, don’t assume that you need to go anywhere to volunteer. Meetings can be conducted by conference call, for example.
Getting involved as a volunteer is as simple as letting the chapter leadership know that you’re interested in helping. They will be eager to put your talent to use!
2. Learn everyone’s names and remember them.
Being good with names is important in networking.
After you make positive connections with fellow members, get their business cards and connect with them on LinkedIn, which can help you remember their names. And try using memory tricks to associate faces with names.
Another idea is to volunteer for the check-in desk at chapter meetings. In this capacity, you’ll be greeting all attendees and giving them their name badges.
3. Go to events and be fully present.
Find the time and take advantage of the chapter’s regular meetings and special events.
If you have conflicts that prevent you from attending the chapter’s regular meetings, remember that there might be other events at different times that you could attend, like mixers, awards ceremonies and volunteer days.
Whenever possible, arrive at events early and stay late to maximize your networking time. Being able to interact with these people is a golden opportunity, so don’t be shy!
4. Read the newsletter and consider contributing.
Most chapters have newsletters with updates on events and member news. There are usually job ads, as well, but the rest of the content is equally valuable. You should read every word.
For example, an article by one of the members about a new industry trend could offer a way to start a thoughtful one-on-one conversation with that person at the next meeting. (It’s also good to stay current on your industry.)
Additionally, you can offer to contribute articles to the newsletter; sharing your expertise in this way can help to position you as a thought leader. Most groups are in need of content for their newsletters and will appreciate the help.
5. Follow up and stay in touch.
After meeting a hiring manager from a company of interest, or someone else who can help you, keep the connection alive.
You can follow up to see if you can arrange a short coffee meeting or phone chat. Don’t ask about openings or send your resume at this stage; simply express an interest in talking further. Having conversations with people who can help you is the most important job search activity you can spend time on.
Stay in touch with these contacts by commenting on their LinkedIn status updates, chatting with them every time you see them, and sending occasional emails with links to articles of interest.
So what are you waiting for?
If you’re not a member of a professional association in your industry yet, you can research groups with the search tool provided by the American Society of Association Executives (yep, there’s even a group for them!). You can also look into Meetup groups that might be relevant.
Once you’ve found an organization, get active and follow these tips—and watch your career opportunities multiply!
This article by Kelly Donovan first appeared on Tim’s Strategy.