Get Connected with a Networking Group

More and more professional women are joining networking groups to help their businesses.

Once a month, members of the North Shore branch of the Exclusive Professional Women’s Networking Group (EPWNG) get together for breakfast at the Eggshell Café in Deerfield. They eat and socialize a little bit, but the main purpose of the meeting is business.

“You see other women who are trying to build their businesses and it’s inspiring,” says Marla Levie Craven, founder of Focus on Aging, a marketing consulting firm. Craven is a member of 6 networking groups, including EPWNG. “People prefer to do business with people they know and trust, and networking groups are a vehicle for business owners to get to know each other, and eventually do business together in some form.”

Wendy Baum is the founder of EPWNG. She says she started the all-women’s networking group, which has grown to154 members in less than two years, because she was having trouble finding a group that fit her professional needs.

“I was looking for high caliber professional women who cared about making money,” says Baum, an attorney and partner at Infinity Strategic Partners, a financial planning firm, “I wanted something that offered the ability to develop relationships and I wanted to meet new people.”

Why just women?

“I think women are more supportive toward each other, so there’s a level of bonding that happens instantly versus a mixed group,” says Frances Archer, founder of the social media marketing firm, Content First, and a firm believer in networking groups. “Everyone is interested in trying to connect with you and help you, and I don’t think there’s that instant connection with mixed groups.”

During a typical EPWNG meeting, each member gets two minutes to stand up and explain what she does, and what her current need is, in other words, what kind of help she’s looking for.

“We’re really good at listening and helping,” says Baum of women in general, “It’s our nature.”

Using networking groups in your job search

Different networking groups serve different purposes. For example, EPWNG allows women who are in between jobs to attend a meeting as a guest, but to join the group, you must be currently employed. Other groups, like Executive Network Group (ENG) are designed to help executives find employment.

“We have a number of programs that help people looking for jobs,” says Chris Campbell, Executive Director of ENG, “These include monthly meetings with a keynote speaker, monthly workshops with speakers talking about job search techniques, and access to over 500 former ENG alumni that have found jobs.”
Campbell says ENG assisted 257 people find jobs in 2010 and 115 so far this year.

Find a networking group:

1.    LinkedIn:
2.    The business sections of The Chicago Tribune and Pioneer Press
3.    Meetup Groups:
4.    Ironically, through word of mouth

Also check out our article on Mommy MBAs and how to approach a job search as a quest: Networking to Find Job Opportunities.

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