Imagine an organization whose members are devoted to a single mission: promoting a successful business environment. That’s what a chamber of commerce does, and most every city has one. If you’re cleared and ready for a civilian career, becoming a chamber member can not only serve to your advantage in the job hunt, it can take the groan out of networking.
“If you’re leaving the military and entering the civilian workforce and you want to spend your marketing dollar the best way possible, there’s no better way than to join a chamber of commerce,” said Mark Ingrao, President and CEO, Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, Reston, Va. “You will be immediately exposed to companies and individuals with whom to network. You’ll have instant access to business support and a variety of opportunities in which to participate in the fields that interest you and are important to you.”
Just outside D.C., the Reston Chamber has a broad reach, with 600 business members and 8,000 individual emails on its roster.
“Many of them represent IT, professional services fields and government contractors,” said Ingrao. “For someone leaving the military looking to get involved with a particular sector like government contractors, this is a cheap way to immediately begin networking with people in that space. We also have committees, like our government contractor committee and public policy committee, which are logical groups for cleared, transitioning veterans.”
Chambers are the working person’s dream. But that’s just as true for the would-be working person. They offer the means for people and businesses to connect. Given the increasing interface between government and the civilian workforce, chambers can offer cleared job seekers opportunities they can’t find anywhere else.
“Chambers of commerce typically offer events and programs that provide individuals the tools they need to succeed,” said Duane Wilson, President and CEO, North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio, Texas. “Transitioning veterans should participate in events or programs that offer self-introduction to a larger audience and opportunities to visit with other attendees during or after events.”
Each chamber has membership benefits and programs unique to it. They can include member web pages for promoting a business or a portfolio of job skills. They host workshops on leadership, social media and best practices in the job search. Simply by attending events, job seekers can learn who’s hiring before jobs are advertised and build relationships that can lead to recommendations.
Chamber membership directories also provide a way for new members to easily introduce themselves to businesses and hiring managers. According to Wilson, membership lists can be key-word searched to identify targeted companies that coincide with military skills or security clearances.
“Many chambers offer a member job bank that lists jobs available with member companies,” said Wilson. “Additionally chambers of commerce certainly have members who offer employment placement services at no cost to job seekers, and in San Antonio, there are companies that specialize specifically in veteran placement.”
As for dues, they can run anywhere from $200 to $400 per year, depending on the city. But Ingrao believes it’s a solid career investment.
“Over the course of a year, that’s not much for what you get,” he said. “If you become a member and if you participate, you’re going to see advantages instantly.”