A friend suggested that professional association meetings are a good place to network. I went to a meeting and didn’t make any good connections. Do you think going to these meetings are worth going to or are they a waste of time?
Professional association meetings are like Lays potato chips. You can’t eat just one. What I mean by this ridiculous statement is that the power of attending professional association meetings isn’t in just going once. The true value of these associations is going many times, for months and months or years and years.
I actually belong to multiple associations. In fact, I’m currently on the board of two organizations, one is training oriented and one is speaker oriented. What I have learned through these organizations is that the true power of being a member doesn’t come from attending an occasional meeting if you happen to like the speaker. There have only been a few individual meetings over the years where I have met a specific person or learned a specific skill that changed my life or business in a positive way. There have also been a number of meetings I attended that on the way home I was thinking it was not worthwhile for me to attend.
That said, then why do I go and suggest you do the same? I go because what I have learned over the years is that while individual meetings certainly all provide the potential to meet new people and learn new things, the real value of these organizations is larger in scope. Being active in an association for a length of time has many advantages including the following:
1. Talking to others in your profession helps keep you current on industry trends, products, services, and technologies. 2. Listening to multiple speakers, over a period of time, greatly enhances your overall knowledge of your profession. 3. Seeing the same people, month in and month out, allows you to develop strong professional relationships with people in your profession. 4. You may hear about potential job opportunities that otherwise would have been outside your view. 5. Getting involved in these professional meetings allows you to practice leadership among your peers by heading up an event or chairing a committee. 6. Being on the board of an association can enhance your professional brand and status within your industry. 7. Being on the board also allows you to give back to the organization by volunteering your time and helping others. This is good for you and good for the world. 8. Having developed long-term professional contacts, you can call them for advice if you have a technical question or are trying to learn a new technology.
Here is a quick true story about me to illustrate the value of these associations. Four years ago when I started my IT management training company, Manager Mechanics, I understood how to manage IT organizations, develop training materials, and provide training. What I didn’t know was the training industry. I joined the Boston chapter of the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) to learn more about the profession. Over my years of being a member, I
• Met great people, many of which have become good friends • Learned an enormous amount about the training industry as a whole • Made great business contacts at other training companies, some of which are now strategic partners of my company • Gained knowledge of various training technologies
For two of the past four years I was on the chapter’s board of directors, which effectively means I was willing to volunteer some of my time helping the chapter. I was in charge of finding speakers for our meetings. During this time, my belief is that I found some great speakers and that my efforts were of value to the chapter. What I do know is that my time helping the chapter was also of great value to me for all the reasons previously mentioned.
I realize that this example is related to training, rather than technology, but the concept is the same regardless of the organization you choose to join.
If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.
Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.