An invitation from a friend to attend a leadership and networking conference of black professionals in Nashville was intriguing for Charmaine Ward. Very comfortable in her then-career, she was a tiny bit curious about the possibilities, thinking, “All I have to do is show up with a résumé and talk to recruiters.”
This marked Ward’s first attendance at the National Black MBA Association Conference. Now, she looks back at that experience as being a pivotal moment in her career.
“When I opened the doors, I saw all of these booths with people standing there waiting to interview you,” Wards speaks of this experience beaming as if she stepped into Buckingham Palace. “I targeted five Atlanta-based companies. The event was in September and by January, I was working at Georgia Pacific.”
Fast forward seven years and Ward is their director of Community Affairs and serves on various boards. She’s also a second term and third year president of the NBMBAA Atlanta Chapter.
Here, Ward shares how education and association are mutually beneficial. –yvette caslin
Tell us a little bit about the NBMBAA Atlanta chapter?
We are 950 members strong (at the time of this writing) and are larger by leaps and bounds than any other chapter … probably the closest ones would be Chicago, D.C. and New York. We’re hoping to really set a record and exceed 1,000 members. You can look at a number of other professional organizations and it’s very hard to find one that has as many [paying] members.
What can students and professionals expect with membership?
Specifically, opportunities for professional development, mentoring opportunities with our high school students through our Leaders of Tomorrow program, visibility to jobs, access to corporate as well as civic executives, networking with other professionals and community service and cultural activities.
Can you provide some networking tips?
Be present; you have to participate in the Connections forums, signature events and Leaders of Tomorrow programs. You need a good elevator pitch – who are you and what do you want … [it should be] 30 or 60 seconds. Follow up. You can’t meet someone and make an impression and not follow up. You may need to call two times, three times or send four emails; you have to put the work in.
How does membership help to raise one’s profile?
Membership in the NBMBAA and any professional association is an important tool in your toolkit. Employers like to hire well-rounded individuals. Membership tells an employer that you’re likely receiving professional development and career coaching. It’s no different than when you were in high school or college and an employer was interested in the type of community service you were involved in.
Secondly,get involved and volunteer. It can be looked upon by employers as skills-based volunteering. Let’s say that professionally, you are an accountant and when you volunteer, you co-chair the marketing committee, which gives you the opportunity to learn marketing [principles], how to do design campaigns and how to create an e-blast. It also provides you an opportunity to manage and lead a team of people, inspire them, and execute a strategy. Now you can add this to your résumé and say that you gained marketing expertise and you’d like to be considered for a marketing role.
The NBMBAA has a conference coming up on October 4-8, 2011 in Atlanta.