By Susan P. Joyce
Corporate and college alumni groups are great networks, and professional associations often offer excellent "niche" job boards. Networking works in business every day – Chambers of Commerce across the world provide businesses the opportunity to present their products and services to other members.
Associations provide individuals, as well as businesses, similar opportunities for positive visibility. Alumni groups connect people with a common background so they can connect and help each other.
Think of associations as possibly the best sources of niche job boards, in addition to the networking opportunities they provide.
Associations usually provide an excellent venue for expanding business and professional networks.
If they have a jobs/careers section of their Web site, and most of them do, job seekers may need to be members of the association to gain access ("Members Only").
An association's annual membership dues payment may be the cost of entry and access to job postings, hopefully worth the investment.
Joining an association only for access to the job postings is probably not a sound idea, particularly if the job seeker isn't allowed to see the job postings before they pay for access, because the quantity and/or quality may be low.
The upside is that, if the association is appropriate for the job seeker, the jobs should be well targeted for that same job seeker, if they meet the membership qualifications (assuming that industry or professional knowledge is required, not just sufficient money to join).
See Job-Hunt’s Tapping the Hidden Job Market article for tips on leveraging your association membership.
LinkedIn is an excellent source of professional "groups" which are often related to national and international professional associations. Connecting with the people in those groups can often be good leads to employee referral opportunities -- the best and fastest way to get hired.
In additoin, most professional and industry associations -- whether local, national, or international -- have websites, and they can usually be found relatively easily using Google or your favorite search engine.
Try several queries until you find the results you need because different groups use a variety of ways to describe their field. Here are some examples to test:
American (journalism OR reporting) association << for a journalism/reporting association in the USA
American (journalism OR reporting) society << for a journalist in the USA
("human resources" OR "talent management") association hospital Boston << for a medical HR association in Boston
Search on both general and specific terms because niche associations covering very narrowly defined fields are common and can be quite helpful even if they have few members. Those sites may have exactly the right jobs for you, and, if you attend any meetings, other attendees may be exactly the right people for you to meet.
For search tips and tricks, as well as Google search ground rules, check Job-Hunt's Guide to Using Google for Your Job Search.
Members of the military, particularly those who served in combat, share a bond that is life-long, and many organizations support those networks, across the country. As well, the former employees of many companies, engaged in a different kind of "combat," continue to stay in touch with each other through newer company "alumni" organizations.
Both the military and the civilian groups can provide job search support and networking for members, including finding job leads, vetting employers or job candidates, and sharing inside information on new potential employers.
The large military and veterans associations are usually well known and easy to find. Finding company alumni associations are more challenging. For both, LinkedIn Groups can be very good sources of information about related professional associations as well as job postings.
Google (or your favorite search engine) can also be very helpful, of course. Some employers sponsor their own alumni groups, but many groups are independent of the employer. Try substituting your former (or, even, current) employer's name for "example" in this search:
"example company alumni" association << for a company named Example, Inc.
Doing a search like this can be very useful, particularly for large employers who have many former employees:
Colleges and universities may provide career support for alumni/ae (which is usually defined as anyone who attended the school, not just graduates of the school).
Go to your school's Website, and look for "Alumni Career Center" or something similar, to find job postings, resume pointers, and other useful information for alumni/ae who are job hunting.
Or Google your college name and add "alumni association" to the search. For example, type this into Google's search bar:
yale "alumni association" << if you attended Yale, for example
Colleges and universities usually publish alumni directories, on- or off-line, that can be excellent sources of networking contacts. If job seekers have targeted a few companies or an industry, they may be able to search the directory to find "fellow alums" who are working in a target company/industry.
Frequently, very active alumni associations even have lists of alumni who are willing to be contacted by job seekers. These can be great assistance to job seekers since there is already a common bond in the school, and that's a great starting point. So, these are "warm" calls, not "cold calls."
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.