In the preceding article, I wrote of the importance of not just networking in general, but actually networking with an agenda; specifically, applying the “Pay it Forward” concept to your daily interactions with colleagues and co-workers.
To reiterate, paying it forward, as explained by Atlanta resident, Bob Littell, is a networking concept designed to elevate other individuals, and ultimately yourself, toward success by placing their needs ahead of your own. It is a completely selfless, unselfish and truly inspired methodology that not only works, but also creates an amazing sense of accomplishment and fulfillment unbeknownst in typical business interactions. This philosophical approach truly embodies the essence of the old adage “the best way to help yourself is by helping others.”
There are a myriad of networking groups around Atlanta. Your best bet is to choose a group closely aligned with your background and skill set. Some groups are geared toward a demographic area; others are industry-specific. Many groups will allow you to attend an initial meeting, free of cost; others prefer you are invited as a “guest” of an existing member. Either way, it’s worthwhile to investigate different organizations to ascertain which ones may prove beneficial.
I have quite a bit of experience networking in various groups and I highly recommend that if you have not networked in the past, this would be a good time to start. Networking and word of mouth, along with referrals and advertising, are still the number one way most folks land a job or locate additional clients.
Below is a partial list of some general business networking groups you may wish to explore*:
The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce encompasses businesses spanning the 28 county metro Atlanta area. According to the Chamber website, over 4000 businesses participate and this means plenty of contacts and potential jobs for you! www.metroatlantachamber.com
The Local County Chambers are another option concentrating on business development in a particular county. Most chambers are located in the county seats. The major Atlanta county chambers are located in Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Henry. The respective website links are www.cobbchamber.org, www.gnfcc.com, www.gwinnettchamber.org, www.dekalbchamberofcommerce.org, www.henrycounty.com
BNI is the “largest networking group in the world” according to its website. There are 52 separate chapters in the Atlanta area, alone. One consideration you need to be aware of regarding this particular group is that only one person per specialty is allowed into any group. So, if you are an accountant or a real estate agent seeking employment, you may have to join a group outside of your specific demographic area if that slot is filled. www.bni.com.
The East Cobb, West Cobb, Decatur, Smyrna, Marietta, Vinings, etcetera, Business Associations and the list goes on. If you are interested in working in a specific demographic area, this may be the route to pursue. These organizations tend to concentrate on business and community development in a relatively small or county-wide area. Additionally, the membership fees tend to skew lower than organizations with a larger geographic base. www.eastcobbba.com, www.westcobbbusinessassociation.com, www.decaturdba.com, www.smyrnabusiness.org, www.mariettabusinessassociation.com, www.viningsbusiness.com.
Rotary Clubs are something you may wish to consider for both networking and volunteerism purposes. According to the website, “Rotary International is the world's first service club organization, with more than 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio under the motto Service Above Self.” There are several rotaries in Atlanta and here you have a real opportunity to “Pay It Forward.” www.rotary.org
Please note this list is highly incomplete; the number of business networking venues in the metropolitan Atlanta area are vast, and as generalized or specific as you require. I recommend you conduct a thorough internet search to see which groups best fit your needs.
If you find the right organization, believe me, it will be worth the effort and time invested.
*NOTE: The majority of the groups listed above require membership fees. The cost varies. Please be aware of cost considerations before you commit to an organization.
For additional assistance with your job search, please visit Meral's website here.