In the securities industry, there are a variety of groups that meet and discuss financial topics. For working financial professionals who want to expand their knowledge of the industry and develop new skills, joining a professional association can be a great way to do it. In fact, these organizations can be beneficial for both career and personal development and can help you stay on top of what's happening in your industry. Read on to find out how.

The Networking Angle
Professional organizations allow for a congregation of intelligent, like-minded professionals that are immersed in the inner workings of the industry to gather and provide participants with access to a variety of opinions and ideas. Ideas will likely be exchanged for prospecting, managing funds, tax planning, estate planning and a wealth of other topics that are seldom discussed in detail in trade magazines.

Another advantage of the group meeting format is the possibility that you might link up with advisors that offer different types of services. This will allow you to both learn from your peers, and perhaps set up some sort of a mutual referral system. Both options are a great way to boost your business. (For related reading, see Targeting Ideal Customers and Alternatives To The Cold Call.)

Another, often overlooked, advantage of joining an organization is that in some cases it will help you emerge as a community leader. For example, as a representative of a local advisors' organization, you may have the opportunity to speak about estate planning at a local nursing home. Or, you may volunteer to speak at your local community college to discuss working in the securities industry. Both opportunities will enable you to educate people, as well as develop relationships with potential clients that could mature at some point down the road. In any case, this type of publicity and willingness to educate and interact with the public could help you familiarize the community with your name.

Getting the Most Out of an Organization
Simply being a card-carrying member of an organization doesn't necessarily mean that you are a productive member. In order to develop your knowledge base, establish new friendships and hone your salesmanship skills, you must attend meetings regularly.

In addition, you should mingle with as many members as possible. Introducing yourself to members will enable you to learn about new aspects of the business, such as (sales) closing techniques, and new products or services that may be available. Incidentally, you'll also get a better feel for what other firms are charging for particular services, which may give you a competitive advantage in your home territory.

Lastly, consider writing articles in the organization's newsletter, or write on behalf of the organization in some other venue such as a local newspaper and/or on a well-visited website. The advantage here is not only to educate potential clients, but also to get your name in front of as many people as possible.

Joining the Right Organization
Before joining an organization, you should determine what you hope to get out of the experience. If you are looking to exchange ideas on an ongoing basis with other advisors in your area, or within a tight radius of where you work, consider a more local organization. Your local newspaper or the web may help you in your search.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to compare notes with advisors from around the country or the world you need to search and join larger organizations. You should make note that most interactions with advisors abroad will probably take place via teleconference or email. In other words, it will probably be less personal and revolve around more general topics when compared to the discussions and meetings of more local associations.

Also, make sure that you have some time to devote to the organization. Your membership may not be of benefit to you if you are too busy to attend meetings regularly and interact with other members and the general public.

Lastly, consider using your membership in one organization to provide you with access to other clubs and organizations. For example, if you are a member of a local group whose sole purpose is to discuss and exchange ideas related to being an advisor, you may be able to leverage your knowledge and experience to speak at other meetings such as those of the Kiwanis or Rotary Club. Other organizations are often more than happy to allow members of financial organizations to speak, so be sure to take advantage of that.

The Bottom Line
Joining a professional organization requires some dedication, but your involvement will help you to stay on top of what's happening in the brokerage industry. It may also help to inspire ideas that in turn could grow your own business.

For related reading, check out our Financial Careers archive.