How Professional Groups Can Boost Your Career

Trade associations and professional networking groups can expand your influence and gain you invaluable resources for advancing your career.

It may seem counterintuitive, but joining a professional group, networking circle or trade association can help you stand out. According to a 2007 survey by the Society of Human Resources Management of 450 of its members, recruiters most often turned to trade associations to find potential candidates who are not looking for a new job. (Source: The Wall Street Journal)

Recruiters and hiring managers often seek out talent at trade show meetings, conferences and other professional group events, the Journal says. "Trade shows are great fishing expeditions for recruiters," Barry Shulman, principal at San Francisco-based recruiting firm Shulman Associates Executive Search Inc., tells the Journal.

Bob Hatcher, president of Chicago area-based Executive Network Inc., estimates that 40 percent of the candidates he places into jobs are identified through trade groups.

Along with being a constant blip on a recruiter's radar, being in a trade association allows people to connect with others in the same field. This can lead to referrals and other useful insights about the industry. Networking groups provide similar advantages.

Doctors, for example, are able to consult with their colleagues on, an online networking group for licensed U.S. physicians. The site constantly re-validates its membership to ensure that all members are licensed physicians.

On the site, physicians can share medical observations or posit questions through posts. Other physicians can provide feedback or start a discussion in the comments section. Individual doctors can then use this information to potentially improve his or her practice.

Other professional online networking sites have similar functions. LinkedIn boasts a membership of more than 20 million people from 150 industries globally. (Source: Brazen Careerist). Such high membership dramatically increases the scope and reach of a professional's network.

"There's no substitute for traditional, offline networking as the best way to build meaningful professional relationships," Brazen Careerist says. "But now, with online networking, you can propel your networking efforts into a whole new dimension."

According to Brazen Careerist, being part of LinkedIn (or other professional online networking sites) can help accomplish the following:

  • Increase your visibility to recruiters or hiring managers through a well-written online resume or portfolio;
  • Expose your work to thousands (or even millions) instantly;
  • Showcase your expertise on a blog you produce;
  • Find influential people in your industry who can help you stay on the cutting-edge of your field;
  • Share your knowledge and enhance your credibility; and
  • It can be a less intimidating way to meet people — not that it can substitute for a personal meeting at a trade show event, but it can start a relationship that can be moved offline.

It is important to make these connections especially if you are looking to change careers or move up to higher-level job within the same field. Hiring trends show that approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of job seekers gain employment through networking, Brazen Careerist reveals.

Once in your chosen job or career, trade associations and networking group can aid you in improving your skills. Many associations offer courses and materials to help you do your job. Many of these groups also have publications advertising educational, operational and training materials or events that you won't find in general publications, MarketWatch says.

Also, being part of a trade association and staying active in association events enables you to build your internal and industry brand, MarketWatch explains. By building a professional brand, you develop your reputation in your company and increase your level of name recognition in the industry.

Joining the right organization can help you build your brand along with other benefits such as:

  • Allowing you to demonstrate your commitment and display your leadership skills by becoming an officer in your local chapter;
  • Improve your job skills through association courses, seminars and publications;
  • Learn about jobs and opportunities before they hit the mainstream job boards; and
  • Get yourself published to create name recognition and find similar opportunities on a larger scale.

For help in finding the appropriate association for you, check out This Web site has compiled a directory of more than 1,500 U.S. associations categorized by industry.


If You Want to Stand Out, Join the Crowd

by Sarah E. Needleman

The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 14, 2007

Why Your Career Needs Online Networking

by Ellen Sautter and Diane Crompton

Brazen Careerist, June 16, 2008

The 15-Minute Tip: Career Boost? Join the Club

by Jennifer Openshaw

MarketWatch, Aug. 20, 2008

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