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Look before you leap.

All too often, contact-hungry entrepreneurs and professionals join networking organizations before investigating them thoroughly. Does this sound familiar? You hastily join an organization, only to discover later that it's disorganized, poorly attended and moreover, doesn't meet your needs. To avoid wasting your time, money and energy on the wrong organizations, consider the following suggestions to help in the weeding-out process: * Make a list of specific goals. Your list should include specific business and personal goals, as well as skills and talents you can contribute to the organization. Paul R. Hammons, president of Hodges & Hammons CPA firm in Los Angeles and treasurer and founder of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce, advises: "If you can bring something to an organization to help build its membership, you could reap benefits in the long run by means of positive imaging and business promotion." * Ask for an information packet. Review the material thoroughly to understand the philosophy, history, structure, affiliations, programs and services of the organization. * Meet with the membership representative. Important questions that you should ask include the following: Are any of the members potential clients or referral sources for my business? What types of services and support do members receive? What events are scheduled for the next three to six months? What opportunities exist for members to take on leadership roles? Also ask for the names of two or three current or former members of the organization and arrange to meet with them. * Talk to current and former members. Consult with members not recommended by the representative, as well as with ones who are. Ask them about the level of commitment needed for worthwhile membership. Also ask them to compare the benefits they have received from this organization with benefits received from other groups. * Visit a group meeting or event Pay close attention to details, such as adherence to an agenda, time allotted for different segments of the meeting and how visitors are treated. You may want to attend at least two meetings and events for each organization you are considering. * Select the group(s) that best suits your needs and commitment level. Compare your assessment of each group with the commitment level required to achieve your goals. Gregory B. Boyd, senior vice president of Economic Resources Corp., a real estate development and venture capital firm in Lynwood, Calif., and national treasurer for the Chicago-based Black MBA Association says, "It's simply a cost-benefit analysis. Decide what you want to get, and then see if you can obtain what you want." Joining a good organization can become a bad investment if you can't make the time to attend meetings or take an active role, or if the groups financial requirements are beyond your means. Whether or not you decide to join the group(s) you investigate, you'll have a head start on expanding your network and developing relationships.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:joining a professional organization
Author:Davis, Robert
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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