With a Little Help from My Friends
November 19, 2009 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Woman in business looking to find a good professional association or networks to join.

So I'm a woman in business (specifically, design and tech consulting) who needs to network and join a few professional associations in order to find work and build up a network. I'll network with anyone, but was thinking maybe women in business networks might be a good place to start, as I'm looking for a professional mentor as well as networking

The problem is that in researching these associations, I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number of them - 85 Broads, eWomanNetwork, Future Women Leaders, MentorNet, American Biz Women Association, Women in Consulting, Women in Tech, Women in Technology - I think you get the drift.

Which are the best associations/networks that you've found valuable? They're all about $100 for an annual fee, and most have events in my area (California). The Professional Business Women of California seems to be the largest, with over 25,000 members (!) but I'm not sure if that's an indication of quality or just that they've been good marketers. In fact, I can't tell much about these associations other than there are a bunch of them all saying the same spiel (events, network, discounts) and nothing that sets them apart from one another. I can only really afford to join one at this point, or at least make sure the one I'm joining is worth the payment. I've looked at AIGA as well but $300 is a lot for a membership fee.

I'm primarily looking for mentors and the ability to network offline and online - I don't care about discounts on software, getting a free Web site on the association Web site, free lunches at the meetings, discounts on shopping etc. If there are good associations in general to join not limited to being a woman in business, please let me know those as well, and why you've found them beneficial.

Thanks! MeFi mail me if for some reason you don't want to share your answers in this thread.
posted by rmm to Work & Money (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It seems to me that your money might be better spent joining an organization that caters to your target clients, so you can expose your skills to them, rather than one rife with your competitors. You didn't say describe your work in any detail, but what about starting close to home, like joining your local Chamber or business organization? If you're joining an association related to your profession, pick the one with the member-services offerings that best suit your marketing and educational needs.

As an aside, consider whether joining one of these groups helps or hurts your business image. Even though my two x chromosomes qualify me for membership, I own a consulting firm in a male-dominated profession, and a relative is a big wheel in one of the organizations you list, I refuse to join any of them. I'm allergic to any entity or individual that promotes basing business decisions on demographic characteristics (including race, religion, gender, etc.) instead of objective criteria, e.g., competency, cost, goodness-of-fit, etc. The more modern and youth-oriented the field, the less affiliating with one of these kinds of groups makes sense; it may even create a negative impression. Moreover, why rule out networking with men?
posted by carmicha at 2:05 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

My wife is a member of the Society of Women Engineers. Can't speak for California, but the Houston chapter, at least, has quite a lot of networking events and she always seemed to be meeting folks with good career advice, etc.
posted by IanMorr at 3:39 PM on November 19, 2009

I think this is similar to online social networking sites. If you go into the group primarily looking for work, you're not going to get a lot out of it. If you approach it as an opportunity to help other people learn and develop their skills, you'll benefit more.

That said, keep an eye open for free events this time of year. This is typically when members have to re-up on their dues, so there may be free, new-member recruitment events.

And have you looked at GarysGuide?
posted by tenaciousd at 4:43 PM on November 19, 2009

I'm a little biased, perhaps, since I work for a membership association. But I'd say that your best bet is to look at the the largest/most prestigious professional organization in your field, which should yield the richest networking opportunities, and then see if they have a womens' working group/council/section. Best of both worlds.

The problem with the organizations that are specifically focused on a demographic is that the membership is often too diverse to give you solid professional leads, and the career-development advice therefore tends toward the generic.
posted by desuetude at 5:00 PM on November 19, 2009

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