May 12, 2020 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer
Find the Right Professional Network for You
Membership in a professional network can strengthen your HR career development. However, most HR professionals don’t have the time or financial resources to invest in multiple networks. It’s important to carefully consider your goals and options before making a decision.
“You have to invest time to get value out of professional membership,” says Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president at Point Road Group. “Don’t make a selection based on prestige or which group looks best on your LinkedIn profile.”
Here’s how to decide which professional network can boost your career to the next level.
Identify Gaps in Your Professional Development
Before investing time and money into joining the first professional network you come across, think deeply about what you hope to gain from it. “What are you missing?” Gelbard asks. “Are you trying to become more visible? Or up your professional game?” This will help you narrow down your choices. For example, if you hope to become a CHRO one day, you would want to look for a network that fosters leadership development and focuses on strategic HR.
Some gaps in professional development come from the industry your HR practice serves. “HR professionals should look into two types of professional organizations,” says Dima Ghawi, leadership speaker and professional coach at Dima Ghawi, LLC. “One that will help them to be better HR professionals, and one that will help them gain a better understanding of the industry they work at.” If your HR practice serves an IT company, for example, look into joining professional IT organizations. This gives you a better understanding of the people you serve, making your practice more valuable.
Evaluate Organizations Based on Your Priorities
“Once you’ve determined those gaps in your professional development, compare your needs to what different professional organizations offer,” Gelbard suggests. If you want to become an HR leader, for example, look for organizations that offer both classroom-style training and tactical leadership experience. Compare what each organization offers as leadership development. Is it limited to webinars and leadership training, or are there opportunities to lead groups?
Look at past events and webinars. What type of content are they producing? Does it speak to what you’re trying to accomplish? If you’re trying to become more visible in the professional community, for instance, look at the group’s content offerings. Do they have a blog or newsletter where you could contribute your original thought leadership? Identify concrete ways joining the organization will help you accomplish your professional goals.
Explore the Group Culture Before Committing
Each professional network has its own culture. Attending a meeting will give you a sense of what that looks like. For example, do attendees at events interact with each other, or do they just sit and listen? “If you’re looking to make connections, then a quieter group culture may not be the best fit,” Gelbard points out. Look for a group where you think you’d be comfortable interacting and taking advantage of the resources the network offers.
When selecting a professional network, plan to contribute. “It shouldn’t just be a transactional relationship,” Ghawi says. “Look for groups where members feel like they’re gaining so much that they want to give back to the organization.” That sense of community will drive your professional development and help you make the most of your investment in the group.