Have you joined the local chapter of your relevant trade association(s) yet? If not, I highly recommend you do this. Even if there isn’t a local chapter, you can still join the association online and reap most of the benefits of being a member. Many of those benefits include discounts for various services and businesses relevant to yours, job listing bulletin boards, training in your specific field, being listed in their provider directory, networking with like-minded professionals in your line of work, and even equipment for your business.
I have been enjoying memberships of various trade associations over the years and have always found great value in just being a part of something where “they get me.” I could attend meetups and win door prizes, make new friends, hand out my business cards, and expand my network. Making friends in your field isn’t taboo because they are “your competition.” It’s quite the contrary, in fact. It’s an opportunity to find a person who can stand in for you when you are ill or want to take a vacation, it’s a great opportunity to find someone you can collaborate with whose skill set complements yours and doesn’t clash or compete with yours. It’s finding people who can suggest productivity tools or share information on business resources you never realized were just down the street. And it’s building a “tribe” of people you can have coffee with, attend award recognition dinners with, or even team up with to contribute something to your community.
Even if you are an introvert, you can benefit from becoming part of an association relating to your business. You might not be interested in the cocktail mix and mingle type gatherings, but you might enjoy going to see a favorite author speaking at a luncheon. Maybe you’re not the type to head up a committee for a job fair, but perhaps you’d be interested in being a judge in an awards competition for students.
For creatives, there are opportunities for portfolio reviews where you can receive feedback on your self-promotion package and see how others promote themselves as well. Much like being back in art school at critiques in design class, for example. Okay, perhaps that thought drums up negative memories for some. 😉 But you know what I mean. Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to seek out advice to help you better your business and do the same likewise for your peers. Putting positive “juju” out into the universe will come back to you in the form of great new ideas, people seeking your expertise and, hopefully, new clientele.
Some associations have online discussion boards where you can join in conversations about new technology, help answer technical questions that come up, be a mentor to someone new in your field or ask for feedback on a project challenge you are facing.
“Where do I begin?” you ask? There’s a thing called GOOGLE. It’s your friend. Just search on your career field and clubs or associations, and you’ll be well on your way.
The benefits are many when flying with members of your own flock. You can utilize as many or as few as you like, but the nice thing is knowing they are there if you need them.