Career coaches will *always* encourage you to network. (If you meet someone who doesn’t, let me know right away.) I’ve met lots of people who got jobs they had no business getting; they just knew how to network. So the answer to “Should I network?” is probably a firm “yes.”
One element of networking involves joining groups. For many people, that’s a great idea. For others, it’s a wasteful time sink. We have many more Career Help Articles Now Available.
Here are 3 kinds of groups that may be helpful, whether you are actively searching for a new job or career or want to explore new options.
Before joining or making a commitment, attend several sessions. Expect everyone to be warm and friendly while you are searching. Take a step back and decide if you want to invest your time before making a commitment. It’s easier to say “No thanks” at the beginning than to withdraw once you’ve started.
Job Hunting Groups
Groups such as the Five O’Clock Club are designed explicitly to help members develop job hunting skills and get jobs.
Why they’re good: If you get into a dynamic group, you may get good advice. You might get motivated simply by participating in group interactions.
Why they may not be good: Clients have told me that some groups are frustrating. Members may be very different from you. The quality of advice you get will depend on the group and the leaders.
Examples of affinity groups include alumni groups or professional organizations (such as American Society for Training and Development or Association of Women Lawyers). These groups tend to be very focused. If you’re not a member of the tribe, forget it.
Why they’re good: Typically you’re meeting people who are happy and doing well. They’re often role models and they may have good contacts. They’re not usually job-hunting themselves.
Why they may not be good: Meeting people is a matter of luck. You can volunteer to serve on committees but you will wait awhile to see benefits.
Friendship and Social Groups
Toastmasters, Audobon Society, Kiwanis and similar groups all claim to be focused on having fun and perhaps accomplishing a worthy goal. They specifically deny they exist for networking.
Unlike the affinity groups, they typically accept members from a variety of backgrounds and experience. Sometimes you have to undergo application processes (Toastmasters can feel like a superannuated Boy Scout troop) but at least in theory, anyone can play. Activities are focused on the group’s mission, not on the identities of the members. So if you join Toastmasters, you will spend your time speaking.
Why they’re good: If you hang out awhile, you’ll make strong connections.. People often care for each other and help one another.
Why they may not be good: Your group may be composed of people who are totally different from you. Often they discourage using the grous for networking and help. We have many more Career Help Articles Now Available.