How to grow your professional network!

In one of my previous articles – Networking and the Importance of Doing It – I identified a personal journey that led me to understanding networking as an essential skill. Employers today expect aspiring new candidates to be comfortable with networking because it enables you to build working partnerships, to be a good communicator, and listener, and to actively make connections, all required crucial skills when you’re working in industry. All of these skills are good for you and your would-be employer but you also get the added benefit of rubbing shoulders with senior leaders of some of the most amazing companies and creating networks that could set you up for career success. One of the other ways to network and meet influencers is to join professional organisations and groups.

There are quite a lot of professional organisations for you to tap into. You may have come across some in your field. For instance, if you’re studying engineering, there’s Engineers Australia, or if you’re studying Computer Science, perhaps Australian Computing Society may interest you. If you dig deeper you’ll find that some of these professional organisations specialise and have sub-groups, such as Australian Water Association for water professionals or The International Information System Security Certification Consortium otherwise known as (ISC)² for cybersecurity professionals. Joining a relevant professional organisation is a strong step into building your networks and hence your career.

The first step to joining a professional organisation is to work out what fits by asking your fellow cohort, reading articles like this and doing a web search. Enumerated below are some key steps to finding the right organisation.

1. Ask your professors.

Yes, they know more than “just” teaching. After all, they are some of the brightest minds and members of professional organisations themselves.

2. Join your local student clubs.

Everyone has to start somewhere. People love to talk about projects they are building or research they are pursuing. All of these can be tied back to their own membership in a professional organisation. They are the best people that could introduce you to active members and potential employers in the organisation.

3. Search events and news articles.

Find out what people are saying about them and what they are “really” saying about them. Rummage through forums and LinkedIn group chats. You will find some gold. I swear by it.

4. Google, google, google.

The simplest way to work out which organisation or club you should join is by researching. Start with your industry and go from there. Check out the organisation’s key mission and vision statements and ensure they fit in with your own values. You’ll be glad you did.

5. Weigh out pros and cons for joining organisations where time and financial commitments may be crucial factors.

Most organisations have student membership prices but those that don’t do a little more due diligence since it’s your hard earned cash you’ll be dishing out and valuable time. Again, check out their events, forums (if they have one), and benefits to joining.

6. Why not volunteer with an organisation of choice?

This will bring you added benefit by not only being a member but by gaining insights into running events, memberships and so much more. A lot of organisations are run by passionate and intelligent individuals, some of which are founders – so you get to work directly with the big guns – while others are in senior managerial positions; you benefit no matter who you work with. So if you decide to commit your time remember to commit fully so you can take advantage of the amazing learning you’ll gain and even better, you get to give something back!

The next time someone asks you, “So, are you active in any professional organisations?”, you can loudly proclaim, yes!

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