When Joining a Professional Organization, Go All In

Author: Admin User | May 24, 2011

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation is an untapped resource for businesses.  I learned this recently when Nancy Jordan, one of the LAEDC’s regional managers, met with our team to let us know what the organization does for its “clients.”  Their website is www.laedc.org.

Earlier in her career, Nancy was in association management working with non-profit, trade, and professional associations.  She talked with us about the advice she always gave professionals planning to join an organization with the goal of business development.  There are three things she asked them to make sure they were ready to commit to if they were going to get something out of their membership:

  1. Make the financial commitment. A new member should not only be prepared to pay membership dues, but also other fees such as those for lunch and/or dinner meetings, expected contributions, and similar expenses.
  2. Make the time commitment to attend. At a minimum, a new member should make the time to attend meetings and to arrive early, which affords time for networking. Doing so will allow new members to start feeling more comfortable with the group.
  3. Make the time commitment to get involved and build relationships. For instance, a new member should join a committee with an eye toward climbing the leadership ladder and becoming known.

Professionals would also ask Nancy which of the target organization’s meetings they should attend. She says, “Go to everything all the time.” Her reasoning is that even if you’re not really interested in the topic at hand, you never know whom you’ll meet or sit next to. Each time you go to a meeting, you meet more people and build the foundation for feeling more comfortable the next time around.

In my experience, very often, professionals join organizations looking only at the short-term. For example, they go to a couple of meetings and may become discouraged if nothing materializes right away.  They then realize that breaking into the organization will take time and effort, and decide it’s not for them.

We all know it can be uncomfortable to attend meetings where you don’t know a soul, but the only way to get comfortable is to push past those feelings, get to the meeting and start conversations.  Also, every organization has a lawyer, CPA, financial planner or insurance professional who has already claimed that spot in the group and become known. While there is almost always room for another professional in those areas, it takes effort to create your own brand within the group.

What Nancy shared was a succinct reminder of what we advise our clients: You have to be selective in terms of the organizations you join and commit to, but over time, your investment can pay off in increased opportunities.

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