If you're looking to expand your job search, you'll eventually face this question: "Where can I find people who'll talk with me?"
Most job-seekers must grapple with this question when the well runs dry and they're at a loss for new jobs to apply for.
How about professional associations?
It's been said that there is a professional association for almost everything you do. Every industry, profession, specialty, or trade most likely has at least one professional association. These organizations perform various roles, such as providing a public-relations liaison to the media, maintaining professional standards, and establishing a vision for the future of their profession or industry.
The organizations can be a great conduit for inside information, overall trends and new developments, including the latest scoop on job opportunities -- but you must be a member. If you're not already a member of an association that represents your job title or professional position, join one as you may be missing out on a great deal of insider info.
One resource to research organizations is a reference called Associations Unlimited. This is a database containing profiles of approximately 460,000 international and U.S. national, regional, state, and local nonprofit membership organizations in all fields, including IRS data on U.S. 501(c) nonprofit organizations.
According to their publisher, Associations Unlimited contains descriptive info on more than 22,000 U.S. national associations, 25,000 international associations, 110,000 U.S. regional, state and local associations, plus more than 300,000 U.S. 501(c) nonprofit organizations, agencies and service programs. You'll find contact information, e-mail, Web sites, and links to each association's descriptive materials, as well as information on meetings, conventions, and conferences.
Don't waste time Googling this resource, because it's available only by subscription. The good news is that you can access it free from your local library, as many library reference sections include this reference database. In fact, if you have a valid library card, you can access Associations Unlimited online through your library Website once you've entered your card number.
Other resources of information that can be accessed online without a library card include:
- Weddle's Guide to Associations
- American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Gateway to Associations Directory
- Internet Public Library: Associations on the Net
Access all three from one place by going to Quintessential Careers' General Professional Organizations and Associations for Networking.
The bottom line is that professional associations are a great resource for networking with members of your own profession, trade, or job title. Their members are employees, managers and executives who are working in the very same corporations, small companies and organizations to which you're applying.
In fact, your dream job could be within one of these very companies because many hiring managers will also be members of their professional associations. What better time to meet them than when they're "off-duty" and you're on a more equal footing?
If appropriate for you, join the organization. It most likely has a local chapter in your city or close by. Get on its mailing list and into the loop. Professional associations can be one of the best avenues to get on the inside and to reap referrals and leads for opportunities that will never make it to the outside world.
By Joe Turner