Monday, October 15, 2007

Birds of a Feather: Find the Networking Group That's Right For You

I attended a GPSEG meeting a few weeks ago. That's pronounced Jee-Pee-Seg, and it stands for Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group.

I had heard a lot about GPSEG, both for and against, so I didn't know what to expect. By for and against, I mean that I was hearing from those who absolutely loved the group and found it the most useful thing they had ever done and from those who hated it and found it not worth the time and effort. There didn't seem to be any middle ground.

It's not unusual to have a networking group provoke such a love-it-or-hate-it response. Another group that gets a similarly polarized response is BNI, which is really a leads network, such that each local chapter only admits one member of each profession and all the members refer business to each other. That sort of networking is either very useful to you, or it isn't useful at all.

GPSEG is very narrowly targeted. It is meant for senior executives, and the membership requirements are stringent. If you fit that narrow target, you will love it. If not, the group is not likely for you.

Some groups are strict about who can be a member, others are open to just about anybody. All of them are targeted at a particular set of people -- young, old, black, green, purple, whatever -- and often meant to achieve a particular purpose. To make your networking as effective as possible, you should ensure the group is alignment with your own needs and goals. Visit the group's web site. Talk to your friends about it. Call up the main contact for the group and talk to them (they'll be happy to help). When someone tells you that a group was great or was a waste of time, you need to remember that they are talking about their own point of view, not yours. Your mileage may vary.

So, don't be surprised if you run into a love-it or hate-it situation in your own experiences with networking groups. You will want to find one that attracts the sort of people you want to meet AND have similar goals to yours. You're likely to hate anything short of that.

Did I find GPSEG worth attending? Yes, most definitely. I was surprised at the number of people at the event that I already knew, and they introduced me to some people who were great connections for me. The group seems a good fit for me, as it speaks directly to both my networking needs and my ability to connect others into my own network of contacts. A quick search of LinkedIn shows that a large number of my Philadelphia connections are already members of GPSEG.

Interestingly, GPSEG has adopted the Celtic Wheel of Being as its insignia -- five interlocking circles. I had used the exact same symbol as an image in one of my earlier posts on how my networking connections were beginning to intersect.

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