Very few argue with the power of networking and its potential impact on your career. Most professionals, especially MBAs, have access to groups and associations, both professional and social. To understand how we should go about selecting these groups and associations for membership, we’ve tapped into the expertise of Gail Romero to give you a few more reasons why you need to engage, attend and learn within an association. We'll also learn how to choose one to join.

Gail Romero is the CEO of MBA Women International. MBA Women International is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering female business professionals, to assisting women into leadership positions in business, and to enhancing the diversity of the world's workforce. An international speaker and presenter on women's leadership issues, Romero brings over 30 years of experience in empowering people to make a voice for themselves. When it comes to networking, she’s the guru.

For our benefit, we asked Romero “what are the top 3 benefits of belonging to a MBA professional association?”

Here’s what she had to say:

Groups and associations are critical to developing your network, your skill set and finding out new trends in your chosen career path or interest. They are also great if you determine that you want to choose a new path – find a group or association that will allow you to grow into that new path with understanding, connections and opportunities to build new networks and career entrée. For MBAs it is additionally important to show that you have not only achieved academic prowess but that your leadership and interest to grow dynamically is significant.

Specifically – it is important to find a group or association that you feel passionate enough about to actually invest your time with. Just belonging doesn’t really do much unless it fills a space on your resume. I belong to many groups on linked in – but I have paid membership with only three and of those three I invest my time, treasure and talent to not only learn but to share my own skills and afford others to attend as well.

Top 3 things to look for in a group or association: The ability to engage, to attend and to learn!

Engaging is the top benefit – whether professional, collegiate, nonprofit or corporate groups all bring a great deal to the table but the real deal for the member is what they do once they join. It isn’t so much about belonging, but engaging. You can only get out as much as you put in. For instance – many of our members hold leadership positions which allow them to engage in conversations with corporate partners, policy makers, other women leaders and expert speakers and presenters. Those that may have limited time to hold leadership positions that are long term may find opportunities to heighten their skills through networking, working on short term projects and programs within the chapters or on international efforts such as focus groups, task forces or our leadership academy. Not all MBA associations are the same – some are more about getting a magazine monthly to find out what colleagues are doing or attending a meeting – and some are more structured to engage and promote membership to each other and corporate partners. Finding the right fit to allow your time and desire to engage are key to your own personal success.

Attending is the second benefit – our membership have the advantage of meeting online or at events such as webinars, networking, annual local and regional meetings as well as the Leadership Conference and Career Fair. Attendees have the option to attend specialized sessions, take assessments, meet with coaches, experience new products and services through our marketplace and experiential rooms, find the latest books from our speakers and authors that represent the skills our women leaders strive for, and find out about new opportunities, careers and jobs! We also offer the ability to join our marketplace and highlight the efforts of our entrepreneurs who have started their own companies. All of these opportunities bring a great deal of interest to those who attend. Almost all groups and associations have conferences that offer numerous opportunities that can be excellent career building occasions.

Learning is the third benefit – most memberships will provide the ability to learn from each other, from experts, and some add additional opportunity to learn from professional assessments and coaching. At MBA Women International we are launching the first ever women’s Leadership Academy that will help members and others learn about leading self, leading others and leading leaders – all to build their skill set in leadership as well as their presentation skills, communication skills, global mindset and social responsibility. We also work to build strong understanding of ethics, integrity, transparency and accountability. Whatever your goals are – keep in mind that it should include a learning component as that is key to growth – personal and professional.

I think it is safe to say when employers look to see how you spend your time and what types of organizations you belong to – it is important to show that you don’t just belong – you engage, attend, and learn from your association to the chosen group(s). You build your network, your skills and your understanding of the new trends and opportunities and your employer or your own business will gain from the efforts and you personally will be more fulfilled because you chose your group or association with passion and the desire to engage, attend and learn.

Thank you , Gail Romero, for sharing your expertise with us. You can learn more about MBA Women International at http://www.mbawomen.org.

Author's Bio: 

Todd Rhoad is the managing director of BT Consulting, an Atlanta based management and career consulting company. He is the author of Blitz The Ladder and creator of the HENRY Series for MBAs. Todd created MBAWriters, an international group of writers supporting MBAs through contributions to magazines, ezines, blogs and websites. He holds a MSEE and MBA.