You just found out about a cool professional organization to join, either through someone at work or from your own research. Or, you’re considering joining something, but you haven’t quite made the commitment yet either because of money or time (we get it, House of Cards season 5 is out and that takes priority, even for us).
Regardless of where you are in the process of joining, you know that as a young professional, it looks great on your resume to show that you’re involved in your industry. But, the benefits are so much more than a resume booster.
Here are five ways to make the most of a young professional membership.
MEET FELLOW YOPROS
It’s kind of like when you joined that club in college that you weren’t sure about but you ended up loving. As a young professional, the best way to meet people with similar goals and ambitions is through your involvement with an organization. We’re not talking classic networking scenarios either (we’ll get real on how we feel about those types of events in another post). We mean getting involved in your organization’s young professionals committee or going to events specifically geared toward your age bracket. These events and yopro-specific committees speak our language, from pain points on career advancement and money to the gender gap to new, inspiring ways to look at your career. But the key is to keep coming back. You’ll start to see a lot of familiar faces at young professional events and committee meetings. The people you meet here are the ones that will extend into friendships outside of professional settings. These are the people who you can brunch with in the morning and then talk about your plans to launch your own business in the afternoon.
GAIN ACCESS TO THE TOP OF YOUR INDUSTRY
It goes without saying that the biggest driver to join an organization is access to top people in your field. Organizations big and small always have career panels. But, it’s not enough to just sit and listen to these panelists. You have to get up the courage to talk to them, too. Usually following an event, a swarm of people rush the stage to talk to the featured panelists (think of a rock show, except with people in business casual which sounds super lame now that we think about it but we promise it’s not). If you want in with someone, keep it short and sweet when you manage to fight through the crowd. Ask for a business card, send a quick note, propose coffee. Make that connection because you both were at the same event for the same organization.
Professional organizations typically also have directories. Use those to your advantage and reach out. It is literally a direct line to someone you have been dying to talk to. What’s more, if you’re actively involved in the organization through a committee or regular attendance (see above point), people will know you and you’ll begin to make connections with top-level execs that much easier.
CHECK OUT THE JOB BOARDS
If you’re considering a move, take advantage of your organization’s job board. These are filled with postings straight from members with a direct contact. As in, a real email address for the hiring manager, not an automated system. Send a note with your resume explaining your involvement in the organization and interest in the position.
HELP OTHERS ADVANCE THEIR CAREERS
Believe it or not, even as a young professional, you already have so much insight into the job world. You have more figured out than you think you do. Help others who are just starting out. Most professional organizations have mentoring programs, or join a committee that plans events specifically for students. If you want to help in a less formal way, simply keep yourself open to the opportunity by distributing your business card at events. Be open to a coffee invitation. You never know where they will end up — and who knows, maybe one day you’ll have a role that is perfect for them (or vice versa!).
GO TO FUN HAPPY HOURS
Last but not least, every career panel comes with a side of wine. Organizations host their events at great bars and restaurants. You’ll get to check out some cool venues you may never have tried before with a cheaper entry fee (i.e. the cost of your event ticket) and a happy hour special. Sometimes these events occur at office buildings you never would have stepped into before, too. The typical structure is networking before the featured speaker(s) take the stage and then networking after. Whether you go it alone or bring a friend, this keeps the event relaxed and fun. Speak with people who span experience levels and learn about who they are — not just about what they do. Obviously don’t be a drunken mess, but a glass of wine and some conversation on dreams and ambitions can lead to a great night.