After a really great event with the Boston Product Management Association last week, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on working with professional organizations. Often people think that they need these types of organizations to round out a resume, but there's lots of value to be had and I'll help you understand what it is and how to use it.

First, let me tell you about the event we did last week. I met Michael Salerno, the President of the BPMA through my blog. I had just done an event (monthly meeting and interview event) with the Silicon Valley PMA and Michael established contact to see how Microsoft and the BPMA could do some work together. Given the fact that I was traveling to Boston anyway, the timing was exceptional. So we came up with the idea of a panel discussion (selfishly, I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to prepare 2 separate presentations for 2 different audiences and execute well within a 24 hour time frame). From there, I didn't have to do much (OK, one of my peers, Maria Curry, handled the planning around hosting the event at our Waltham office). Plus I loved the idea of a Q&A format. Why waste a bunch of time talking about what I wanted to talk about when people could just ask about what they really wanted to know (I'm a people-person, right?)?

The group was exceptionally well organized (I guess I am surprised by this because these folks have day-jobs). There was a program, we were briefed on questions that would be asked well ahead of time, etc. And the other panelists were really great and together I think attendees got opinions from a cross section of folks in the staffing industry. Here's the announcement of the event.

So having participated in a few of these events, which I felt were very successful, and seeing how participants use these events to network, I thought I could provide a little insight into their benefit:

For Recruiters

Recruiters typically specialize in one type of broad profile like marketing or technical or finance. Because they work many roles that are similar, the ultimate quest for the recruiter is to find groups of similar candidates that somehow hang out together (online or offline). By identifying professional organizations germane (no relation to Tito) to a recruiter's area of focus, the recruiter can broaden their access to talent. Also, recruiters can focus geographically where the talent is hot (for example, where competitive companies exist, where top universities are). It was no mistake that our recent events have been in Boston and Silicon Valley.

Also, you need to understand that the leaders of these organizations are trying to provide value to their member base. Career development, job searching, hiring are topics that affect everyone and these organizations are highly interested in leveraging the knowledge of staffing professionals (and other professionals) to assist their members in hiring and planning their own careers. For that reason, these groups are extremely accommodating in getting staffing professionals in front of their members. As a recruiter, the return for a little bit of my time is great.

Recruiters can also use these organization to do some geographical benchmarking. Since most of us work primarily by phone and e-mail, it's difficult to get out to the different locations that we recruit from (at least for companies like Microsoft) because we recruit from any and everywhere. Want to know about cost of living in a particular area, how certain companies title their roles, what companies are laying off...it's great to have those local professional organization connections.

For Candidates/Job-seekers

This one may be fairly obvious. People find jobs through networking. In fact, I've found every one of my positions by knowing someone inside the company (I don't know that I have ever officially "applied" for a position). I once heard Oprah say that if you are single and don't want to be, tell everyone that you know that you are looking to date and  you want them to set you up. I don't necessarily agree with that advice on a personal level, but on  a professional level, I think that is good advice. Go to these meetings and network with the other attendees. Use that time to find out who is hiring, what they look for.

One word of caution though (which reminds me why I don't agree with Oprah's personal advice): if all you talk about is your job search, it gives the impression that you are not in demand. Make sure you are otherwise engaging in interesting and relevant conversation. Trade war stories and business cards and either mention briefly that you are looking or follow up to the conversation with an e-mail after the conversation.

Also, many professional organization have job posting pages (reminder to self: post Microsoft's jobs on the BPMA job posting page).

Take advantage, volunteer for stuff, work the room!

For employees

So maybe you aren't looking for a position right now. What value do professional organizations hold for you? Well, first, they do talk about industry related stuff in meetings and discussion groups. As a recruiter I always gain so much insight by talking to other recruiters about what they do and their challenges. I know this is true for people in other disciplines.

From a personal standpoint, I also like to know how my job (read: job satisfaction) measures up to what other recruiters are doing (feeling). Are other cool jobs like mine available out there? Are other recruiters feeling the same pain points I am? What are the new tools they are using to do their jobs? As a professional in any space, you should be networking to gain more insight into how your role is leveraged within other companies. This also helps you to benchmark your value come review time. You'll also get some career planning advice. I've advised a number of folks how to make a job change, from tech to marketing, from sales to marketing, how to move across domains or roles within marketing. These professional orgs are the places to ask those questions and get advice from your peers. Planning your career is something you need to think about as a long-term endeavor. Start now.

For Hiring Manager

In this current climate of "do more with less", many companies are counting on their employees to do more and more recruiting. We have lots of recruiting resources here, but leverage our employees to recruit because they are the ones out there actively engaging with their peers from other companies at meetings, trade shows, conferences, etc. As a hiring manager, if you don't want to wade through a bunch of applicants, I recommend you get out there and recruit! (as they say, the best recruiter is a happy employee...or something like that). As an employee, recruiting within these kinds of organizations allows you to help pick your co-workers (if you've ever worked with a difficult co-worker, you know why this is important).

(P.S.: recruiters should be asking hiring manager for attendee and speaker lists from these events).

OK, so off my soap box. Hope that this is helping you think about getting involved in some professional organizations. Have fun out there!