Networking is one of the best ways to find a new job, but many find it intimidating and difficult. There is no one single method of networking that works for all and it can take a lot of time.

To be an effective networker you need to get your name out there and interact with people around you. The extent to which people actually do this varies. For some, it means reaching out to their immediate network – family, friends, neighbours, and acquaintances. For others, social media sites, such as LinkedIn, offer a powerful platform to connect.

Job search networking is most effective when you can come together with a targeted group of like-minded individuals. Finding people to meet within your industry will go much farther to achieving your career goals than blindly connecting with strangers online. Joining a professional association does exactly this. It allows you to schmooze with current professionals, other job seekers, and, more importantly, top employers in your field.

A professional association, also called an industry or trade association, is group dedicated to promoting a specific sector, industry or occupation. Just about every occupation and industry has its own association, often with local chapters. For instance, if you want to work in the oil and gas industry, you might consider joining the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. If you happen to be an engineer in Manitoba, there’s the Manitoba Professional Engineers Association.

The benefits of participating in these organizations are enormous. Here are five reasons why you should join a professional association:

Network With Others: The number one benefit of joining a professional association is the opportunity for networking. They are an excellent source of employment information and potential job leads. Get to know individuals who are already employed in your industry, and find out who the key decision makers are.

Learn About Your Industry: An association is a wonderful way to learn more about your industry. Many associations have regular guest speakers. Quite a few publish trade magazines, or online blogs, that are helpful. You can also uncover future trends and key issues that face your industry. Do you have any insight of your own you’d like to share? Get involved!

Meet In Person: By attending conferences, trade shows and seminars you will be able to meet face-to-face with others in your industry. In a world where everyone is seeking online connections, having personal contact with influential people is a great way to get noticed and stand out from other job seekers.

Build Your Resume: Adding your involvement in a professional association on your resume demonstrates to potential employers your commitment to the industry. Taking an active role within an association, such as volunteering or working on a committee, will also translate to additional skills and abilities, adding even more value to your resume.

Tap Into the Hidden Job Market: The hidden job market is comprised of those positions that are not yet advertised. By participating in a professional association you can uncover hidden job leads. You never know when you will meet someone who knows someone else who’s hiring. Get in front of employers before they decide to post for a job.

How do you find a good professional association? Have a look at various association websites in your field. Do they provide links specifically for job seekers? Are they trying to attract new entrants to the industry? Who are their member organizations? Many of these will be potential employers. Talk to others and find out which associations are most prominent in your field.

For a list of top industry associations, check out Industry Canada’s Canadian Company Capabilities (CCC). They provide the Directory of Business and Trade Associations where you can find a wide range of associations across Canada.

Don’t overlook professional associations as an important networking tool in your job search. They could just be your hidden gem in landing a great job! Good luck!

Kevin Makra is the President of Sentor Media Inc., and founder of He can be reached at