Getting Involved in Organizations

It’s a bland title, I know. If I could name this post anything else, it would be called “Getting Involved in the Community”, but seeing that that could be confused with a point I’ve made in The Social Issue and a title like “Networking Through the Community: Empowerment in Organizational Involvement” would be extremely verbose, I’m going with this one instead. Not a very attractive title, but whatever. Nonetheless, this has to do with a very important topic: networking.

In the past, I’ve made posts about internships and the importance of networking. Internship are a great way to start off your career, but networking itself entails far more than just getting to know everyone at the office. Networking implies actually going out to the community and getting to know like-minded people. If you think of a network as being a web, you’re essentially spinning your name all over the community and luring people to it. That’s your goal.

So how do you do it? The first thing you’ll want to do is get plugged into  a member society or an organization that supports your interests. To find one, the easiest way would be to do a Google search with the search query ‘[state] [occupation] organization’. Replace [state] and [occupation] with your state and occupation (or field of interest) And search through whatever comes up to see which organization works best for you. Most organizations require an annual membership fee, though most don’t normally cost more than $150, which is worth it considering what you’ll get out of it. Being a member of an organization is enough in itself to motivate you to continue to develop the skills of your trade, and beyond that, you’re  also getting to know people that can have a positive influence on your career.

Member societies offer more than just a sense of belonging (not to undermine the value of it, though). Your local chapter will post up events, workshops, and contests that are taking place in the area, giving you other chances to learn new things and meet new people. Many organization will also have annual conferences to allow others to showcase their work before professionals and company representatives in that industry.

The major draw of these conferences are the speaking events. Knowledgeable and successful people of that profession are invited to present a topic of their choosing, giving attendees additional insight into their career. This makes good use of the money you’ll be spending to get into these conferences (because you will be spending money), but there’s more you can do with that money than just listening to people talk and taking notes. Go there wearing your sharpest set of attire (a suit and tie are preferable, if you can afford it) and introduce yourself to anyone of importance there. This would include sponsors, company representatives, and marketing agents (depending on your profession). If you really want to be prepared, create an online portfolio and have the link printed on a set of well-designed business cards, along with your name, email address, and phone number. Take a stack of these with you and hand them out to anyone of interest.

As competitive as the work force is nowadays, nothing is more important than getting your name out there. The common mistake so many college graduates make is they shut themselves in as they’re pumping out job applications. You want to be a recurring presence in the community. You want people to know who you are, and the more active you are, the better known you’ll be.

If your involvement in events and organizations doesn’t immediately lead to any interest from employers that are looking to hire, don’t worry. It takes time. But in the meantime, you can still include that activity in your portfolio and show it to employers as you go for your interviews. Your involvement in the community, if nothing else, tells them of your dedication and interest in that career, and that’s at least one more thing that will set you above the rest.