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The Best Way For a Time-Starved Professional to Build Their Network

You probably would agree that building your professional network will be a never-ending project requiring a lot of time and energy. You’d probably also agree that narrowing in on a few areas, perhaps even just one, may be the most effective choice you could make.

One area to consider placing at the heart of your professional networking time is with your industry association. There are industry associations for virtually every type of work imaginable.  If you are not sure whether there is one for you, or not sure where to find your local chapter, simply Google “my industry + association + my city”. For example: “graphic design + association + Vancouver”.

Associations are like a one-two punch – you develop yourself professionally and you build your network. 

  1. Very Helpful

    Where else could you go for a one-stop shop of credibility, access to the latest thinking in your industry, and continuing education?

    Industry associations bring all this together. If you haven’t yet joined or attended any association events, it may be exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll meet others who know what it is like to work in the industry, its pains and the pleasures. Getting help and insight from those who have been there before can put you miles ahead than if you had to learn everything on your own. There is also a chance for you to help others with your advice, tips and experience. And whether you’re looking for others to partner with, people to hire or potential clients – your local industry association is a smart place to start.  

  2. How To Get Involved

    Once you’ve found your local association chapter, attend a few events to get the feel of it, as each will have its own vibe. The formats generally include: workshops, seminars, guest speakers, mix and mingles at breakfast, lunch presentations, and after work events. There will be a different crowd at each event and it is important to find where you fit best and what works best for your schedule.

    Usually most associations offer both non-member and member pricing. I’d recommend attending a few events as a non-member before you’re sure you want to join. Sure you’ll pay more for your ticket, but just think of it as an investment in your professional development.

    If you’d like to really get involved, usually associations are always looking for volunteer help. From event help (such as introducing speakers) to running the strategy of the association (sitting on the board), there is usually plenty of opportunity to get more seriously involved. Doing so can help you develop skills you need to polish and give back with the strong ones you already have; in addition, you’ll be working with others – a key way to build your network. 

  3. Why It’s Worth It

    There are many reasons to getting involved in your local industry association. A few hours of your time per month can greatly increase your knowledge and understanding of your local industry and the people involved. You’ll also benefit by:

    Finding out about new work/opportunities/deals

    • Learning more about the industry
    • Staying up-to-date on important trends
    • Meeting others in your industry and building your network
    • Giving back to your community
    • Keeping your networking skills polished
    • Trying out new skills by volunteering
    • Receiving discounts and deals 
    • Gaining access to other opportunities from partner association offers and events

    Set aside time today to find your local industry chapter and commit to attending one or two events during the next quarter. It just may be the most effective way for a time-starved professional to build their network.

    [Jennifer Kelly runs New Initiatives Marketing, a marketing services company focused exclusively on the effective implementation and execution of marketing strategy, particularly brand new strategies. Learn more at www.newinitiativesmarketing.com. Jen can be reached at jen@newinitiativesmarketing.com and on Twitter @jenkellyjen]