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Saint Vincent College Faculty Blog

Forget Social Media … Get Connected with a Professional Organization

Posted by Michael Urick on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 @ 10:11 AM

Delete FacebookAs I have done on many occasions, I was recently having a conversation with an HR representative of an organization that employs several Saint Vincent graduates. I asked this individual what makes some recent graduates more attractive candidates for jobs than others. His response to me was one word: experience.

After our conversation, I reflected on this quite a bit and recalled earlier conversations I’ve had with students about entry-level jobs. In one such conversation, I was speaking with a first-semester senior who asked me why many “entry-level” HR jobs always seemed to require 1-2 years of work experience. Part of this answer is, of course, that employers want entry-level employees to have had at least an internship prior to full-time employment.

And yet internships can be tough to come by in a highly competitive environment. But, as bad as this may sound, sometimes to get an internship students find that it’s both what you know and also who you know. This proves difficult to students with no workplace connections so, in order to get to know people who work in a particular field, I recommend networking.

Unfortunately, many people focus exclusively on social media such as LinkedIn or Facebook when attempting to network. While social media has its uses, it should not be relied on as the exclusive channel for professional networking. Face-to-face channels are more effective because they show potential employers that would-be applicants have some positive social skills and are serious about building a career.

Pittsburgh Human Resources Association LogoI confess that I am not in my personal comfort zone when networking so something that makes it easier for me is to be involved in professional organizations (groups of people interested in a particular profession or industry who discuss important trends in their respective fields). Some professional organizations that I personally am involved with are the Westmoreland Human Resource Association, Pittsburgh Human Resource Association, APICS and the Academy of Management among others. 

I have previously also been involved with the Project Management Institute, Association for Talent Development, Institute of Internal Auditors and Institute of Management Accountants. I am currently vice president of the Institute for Supply Management Pittsburgh affiliate and, this month, will be leading a networking session at our monthly dinner meeting. By the way, I recommend all of these organizations for those interested in their professions.

American Production and Inventory Control Society logoProfessional organizations are important and I advocate all of my students to get involved with associations that interest them. However, professional organizations aren’t necessarily just for students seeking employment. They can benefit almost everyone at all career stages. Here are some reasons why I advocate getting involved.

  • Certification - Many professional organizations offer certifications. Such certifications show employers that individuals have a solid knowledge of a particular field and that they are dedicated to growth and learning by taking the initiative to study and pass a certification exam. Some jobs require specific certifications while others that do not may still look favorably on candidates who possess such credentials.
  • Education - Most certifications require continuing education hours in order to maintain them. Such education hours can be earned by participating in the programs of professional organizations such as dinner meetings, seminars and webinars. Beyond maintaining certification, though, participating in such events helps newcomers learn more about a profession and more experienced professionals further enhance their skills.
  • Networking - As already mentioned above, meetings and events of professional organizations are great places to meet other like-minded professionals interested in talking about their experiences and potentially interested in helping others find employment. I can think of dozens of occasions in which students of mine attended professional organization events and connected with someone who helped form their career.

Employers and professional organizations should focus on getting emerging professionals involved. Employers need to support professional organization membership in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas and enable knowledge transfer between mature employees and less-experienced individuals. Professional organizations must also effectively recruit new members to remain vibrant communities that continue to be on the cutting edge of a particular profession.

What do you think? Do you belong to any professional organizations and, if so, how have they helped your career? Have I convinced you to become a member of an organization? If so, which one? Let me know your thoughts! Email me at michael.urick@stvincent.edu, connect through Facebook (www.facebook.com/urickmj), add me on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/pub/michael-urick/a3/775/5b/), or type a message in the comments below.

Topics: internship, social media, Michael Urick, MSMOE, APICS, Academy of Management, Professional Organizations, Westmoreland Human Resource Association, Pittsburgh Human Resource Association

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Associate Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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