Have networking and being a member of a professional organization helped you in your career?
Joining a professional organization can be rewarding and fulfilling when trying to enhance your skill set. Some professional organizations are expensive. You need to determine if an organization meets your needs along with how you can contribute by volunteering on a committee. A person should not just join for the sake of “what’s in it for me.” A person should consider how she or he will personally benefit and contribute to the organization and its goals.
When I joined the Federal government in Bethesda, Maryland, I wanted to know how I could enhance my skills. So I joined a nonprofit organization named Federally Employed Women (FEW). I attended a chapter meeting and liked the vision, mission, and goals of the organization and what it had to offer. I considered how I could contribute to this group. I served in several capacities, and all of the positions were rewarding.
My most notable role was serving a chapter president. This opportunity gave me the ability to develop leadership skills, do public speaking, direct committees, recruit members, write awards presentations, develop the budget, build professional connections, and meet with senior officials of the FEW organization and leaders from my previous employment.
So, in essence, a person must look at volunteering as a way to gain valuable skills to excel in one’s career. It also shows that you will go above and beyond to do extra activities outside of work. It is hard work but fun work that you can add to your resume. Often employers such as the Federal government like to see that individuals do volunteer work.
Here’s an update on how networking landed me a new job at my current employer as a Program Analyst in the Office of Policy Development and Coordination (OPDC). In December 2015, I was in the hallway looking at the employee bulletin board. A man came along and asked me what I was looking at, and I told him that I was looking at the announcement of an employee retiring. During our conversation, I told him who I was and where I worked along with sharing my educational background. I had seen this man in passing but never knew his name and still didn’t ask his name. So we departed, and I didn’t give it any more thought. The next day the man came into the office where I worked and spoke to my supervisor. She came over and told me that the man was a supervisor in OPDC, and he wanted me to participate in a grants competition by reading and scoring applications. So of course, I agreed because that was an opportunity for me to do something different and meaningful.
Well, I did such a fantastic job that the Director, OPDC, sent an email to my supervisor, her boss, and the OPDC Supervisor. The most notable statement in this email from the Director, OPDC, was that I was very detail-oriented, concise, and thorough. Also, I provided supporting information to justify my scores on the grant applications. I was so thrilled to see these comments in writing. I considered reaching out to the OPDC Supervisor since he invited me to participate. I reached out to him and requested a brief meeting. I printed out my resume and went to his office. I expressed an interest in his office if an opportunity opened in the future. He offered me a detail assignment for six months. This gave me the opportunity to try out a new job and see if I liked it and if the team liked me. Well, the detail assignment worked out, and I’m permanently in this office.
I don’t know if this was luck or being at the right place at the right time. If you are seeking a new opportunity, it’s best to share your story but be brief. Just tell the person the office you are in, your position, and your educational background. Remember you only get 1-2 minutes so do your best, stay calm and always be ready because you never know who has that next great opportunity.
Written by Rudene Thomas, PhD in Public Policy and Administration Student, Guest Blogger