Connections for Job Seekers: Associations Lead to Opportunities

Job hunting in a good economy can be an effort.  In a slumping economy it can be downright brutal. It would seem logical that job seekers would use every available strategy to secure employment. Yet according to a recent study by Career Builder and The Inavero Institute for Service Research*, the majority of job seekers are not utilizing key resources in their search. 

A major overlooked area is participating in associations or industry groups. According to the study, only 7% of candidates were taking advantage of associations or trade organizations as they looked for a new job. That means 93% of folks are missing out on this strategy.

Associations and groups provide a wealth of information, knowledge and connections to people employed in a particular industry. Just being a member isn’t enough; you really need to get involved and participate to benefit from the advantages these groups offer. When you’re a member, you’re an “insider.” You find out important information like who is working where, what companies are hiring (or not), which companies you might want to work for (or not), key skills employers may be looking for, and current trends in your industry. Many job opportunities that go unadvertised will be filled via word-of-mouth through these types of connections.

Hiring is a trust decision— people need to trust that you can do what they think you can for their company. Generally a hiring manager would rather choose someone they’ve worked with or met before, or who was referred by someone they trust. When you participate in industry groups, suddenly you’re more than a faceless resume. You’re that interesting person they had a conversation with last month, or that student who really responded well to their portfolio critique. As a job seeker you become a full-fledged person, not just a piece of paper.

Which groups are best for you?

There are a wide variety of choices, but a good place to start is with local organizations or local chapters of national associations that are most closely related to what you do. Do an online search, then ask people you respect in your industry which groups they participate in. If you’re a graphic designer, find the AIGA chapter or similar organization in your city. If you’re in marketing, check out the American Marketing Association chapter. 

Find the people that do what you do, and check out those groups first.

Then expand to groups that are related to what you do, or where people who hire people like you participate. For example, a marketing person with healthcare industry experience may join both the AMA and a healthcare association. Be sure to sample a variety of groups to see which ones feel like the best fit for you.  You can generally attend a meeting or two as a guest before you make the decision to join. Participation and a genuine interest in what the group does is key, so where you feel welcome and excited to attend events will be the best choice for you. 

* Source: 2009 Opportunities is Staffing Guide report, study conducted by The Inavero Institute for Service Research and CareerBuilder:

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included. ©2011 Kristen Harris, Portfolio Creative, LLC.