—by Bruce Hazen
You may know I’m a big proponent of continuous career management as opposed to serial job-finding (what I call “finding one-job-in-a-row”). Continuous career management means mindfully managing your relationship to work by asking and answering The Three Career Questions:
- When is it time to Move Up? (progress in your work or in an organization you like)
- When is it time to Move Out? (of a relationship, job, role, company, or profession)
- When is it time to Adapt Your Style for greater success?
But did you know that there are two special types of groups that are terrific resources for answering The Three Career Questions — and that successful career-seekers consistently join these groups?
There are thousands of these groups. They are 1) professional associations, and 2) university and college alumni associations.
Still, many of us talk ourselves out of joining. If we’re searching for work, we figure we can save money by not joining. If we just landed a job, we’re too busy to join. And if we’re a mid-career professional, we may consider it a waste of time to mingle with the many professional newbies who participate.
But in the context of The Three Career Questions and continuous career management let’s see what becomes available to you by joining a professional association or alumni group.
When you want to Move Up, join to:
• Seek a mentor who, for political reasons, might better be found outside of your current organization
• Gain opportunities to observe the dress, vocabulary, and content knowledge of a professional group you want to join
• Preview more complex jobs, higher positions, or different organizations
When you want to Move Out:
• Professional and alumni associations often have proprietary job listings. Financial Executives International, for example, has an actively managed, members-only employment resource
• Searching for work in another geographic area? Visit or contact your professional association chapter there. Call the board members and ask for a referral to a peer or senior member
• Prevent a false-positive career move. Meet people from a target company or hear stories about your dream company to ensure it doesn’t also have an unacceptable downside
Join to Adapt Your Style:
Aspiring to management roles but lack experience? Volunteer or run for a leadership role in an association or alumni organization. Do something impressive with your fellow members and use the experience when you talk about leading without formal authority in your next interview.
We all need to develop our talent in an efficient and effective way. Associations such as the Institute of Management Consultants or the Association for Talent Management have clear competency models to guide your decisions about how and where to spend your time and dollars on professional development.
Find a mentor or role model. Your membership gives you access to and credibility with the more experienced professionals that transitioned or adapted in ways that can be very instructive for you. Membership gives you access to a human treasure trove of experience and stories about how successful adaptations can be made for greater success. Remember, you need to pay for the lunch or coffee conversation and you need to join.
So get out there and join. Step away from the screen and get out of the house. Participate. And start mindfully managing your relationship to work.