How to Network at Professional Associations

Article by Donna FeldmanAn often overlooked place to network and find referral partners is professional associations. These associations serve people working in a particular industry or profession and can provide you with many resources, as well as valuable connections. You may not think that networking within your profession will provide any client leads, but you’d be surprised! Colleagues refer to others in their field for a variety of reasons — it could be an issue of scheduling, timing, differing specialties, or specific expertise.

To take advantage of networking in professional associations, follow these two simple steps.

Step 1: Find a Group to Join

The first step is to find the right group. This can either be the professional association for your industry or profession (such as the American Bar Association for lawyers or the International Coach Federation for coaches), or an organization that serves the same target market you serve. For example, a client who is a mortgage broker belongs to her local Home Builders Association and a photographer we know goes to meetings for design professionals. Think about who else comes in regular contact with your target market and find out what associations they belong to.

You can find groups by asking people what professional associations they belong to, or by using these resources:

ASAE: Center for Association Leadership
Weddles Association Directory
National Trade and Professional Associations Directory (available at most public libraries)

Step 2: Get Involved and Give Back

Networking and referral-building take time. People need to know you, like you, and trust you before they start referring people to you. Become a valued member of a local association by joining the group and attending its meetings. Volunteer and serve on a committee. Give referrals to other members. The more you give of yourself and your time, the more likely you will be to receive. And don’t be afraid to ask; it’s okay to let people know that you’re looking for referrals.

We encourage you to explore some new places to network by adding a few professional associations to your list of places to go. Find one you like, get involved, and you’ll be on your way to more referrals.

This article was co-authored by Donna Feldman and Cindy Rold. Donna and Cindy are The Networking Gurus.

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