How to Use a Networking Organization to Elevate Your Career
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How to Use a Networking Organization to Elevate Your Career

by Isabelle Miner
Photos Lynette Boyle | September 18, 2015

YOU'VE HAD YOUR EYE ON A NETWORKING ORGANIZATION FOR AWHILE, BUT IS IT WORTH THE TIME AND EXPENSE? LEARN HOW TO COMMIT, CONNECT, AND ELEVATE YOUR CAREER. 

As ambitious career women, we’re always looking for ways to improve our careers. Most of us wish there was a magic solution to ensure a promising trajectory full of growth and networking opportunities that fall beautifully into place. I have a secret for you: that magic does exist. It’s known as a professional development organization.

Professional organizations provide invaluable formal mechanisms to offer support, opportunity, and a prolific network, but it’s not enough to just join. The real value comes when you take advantage of your membership. Here’s how to use your organization to make a strong impact on your career trajectory:

JOIN A COMMITTEE

I became affiliated with my organization as a senior in college when I was deep into the job search and working aggressively to expand my network. But it wasn't until I joined a committee that I really started to see the benefits the organization offers. {Click to Tweet}

Keep in mind, it's a "professional development" organization. Whether you’re unemployed, in search of a challenge, or need a change of pace, getting involved means creating and developing skill sets.

Professional organizations provide invaluable formal mechanisms to offer support, opportunity, and a prolific network, but it’s not enough to just join.

Most organizations offer a variety of committees that play to different interests. {Click to Tweet} These include student outreach, scholarship, programming, development, membership—the list goes on. Look for groups that will teach you skills you’re looking to add and will benefit from the skills you already have. You want to bring value to the group rather than detract from the work they're doing. Make sure to demonstrate your value when getting involved.

Don’t forget a committee is a commitment! Do you remember working on group projects in school, when the group slouch still got the same credit for doing nothing? If you're going to get involved, make sure you're willing to put in adequate time and energy. This goes back to the idea of "working at it." The committee will give you great experience–as long as you give great support to the committee. If you feel it’s not an even trade, seek out other committees that will be more suitable for your commitment level.

MAKE FRIENDS

One of the best parts of my experience as an organization member are the relationships that sprout from my involvement. Upon joining, I thought I’d meet powerful women who'd built a strong network of other powerful women. Not to say that hasn't happened, but the relationships I built with my peers have actually been the most fulfilling.

I constantly meet ambitious young women looking to build a social circle who share my interests. After a year of membership, I've established good friendships with a woman at LinkedIn, a freelance writer, and a fashionista—beautiful, smart women who are sympathetic to my search for a fulfilling career. We're able to bounce ideas off one another, encourage each other in a job searches, and collaborate on passion projects.

Whether it’s an organized happy hour or an annual meeting, consistently attending events means you'll see the same faces and establish a rapport.

To find these friends, it's important to frequent organizational events. {Click to Tweet} Whether it’s an organized happy hour or an annual meeting, consistently attending events means you'll see the same faces and establish a rapport. Networking doesn't necessarily mean meeting everyone you possibly can in the span of two hours, but cultivating relationships with those women you enjoy getting to know.

If you find someone you sincerely enjoy speaking to, ask to continue the conversation the following week over coffee. You can even invite them to a work function or the next event hosted by the organization. Remember, you're all coming from the same place and can bond over that fact. 

BE COURAGEOUS

It takes a lot to be an active member. When you attend events, you're constantly making an impression on the women in the room. When you attend your first event, everyone may seem to already know each other and you'll  think, “How can this even contribute to my career?”  

Don’t get discouraged. When you attend your next event, walk up to the tightest knit group in the room and introduce yourself. Speak up, shake hands firmly, and smile. No matter if you're unemployed, unhappy at your job, or even a non-member, everyone is there to meet you. They wouldn't attend the event if that wasn't their motivation. By being you're most courageous self, your time will be well spent.

TAKE A LEADERSHIP ROLE

Okay, this is the big one! Assuming a leadership role in the organization is a fantastic way to step up and take control of your experience. Look at the organization’s foundation and operating board–can you see yourself sitting there?

If you can make time for a leadership role, you’ll find your personal and professional growth skyrocket. Not only will the organization take note of your dedication, but so will future employers. 

Getting involved on a committee gives you a place to shine, and I guarantee people will notice. {Click to Tweet} Members sit on a board for a single term, meaning there’s turnover every year. If one committee’s work resonates with you, inquire about leadership roles.

Don’t forget to take note of the added commitment. Usually seasoned members sit on the boards because they have the time do so. Evaluate your schedule and energy level so you can pursue a leadership role whole-heartedly.

If you can make time for a leadership role, you’ll find your personal and professional growth skyrocket. Not only will the organization take note of your dedication, but so will future employers. It's exciting to see younger members sustaining an organization. {Click to Tweet} You’re the future of the industry and your fellow members will want to help fulfill every ounce of your potential.

None of this is easy. It takes time, energy, and commitment, but what worthwhile commitments don’t? Rather than seeing it as work, consider it an untapped resource. It's your chance to contribute to your career, and will certainly be worth your while.

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Already in a networking organization? Tell us how you've benefitted in the comments.