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Meet the Right People With an Affinity Group

download_asset-3Do you want to meet the top executives in your industry? How about the decision makers of your company? Or, maybe the up-and-coming, hot new executive who’s work you’ve admired for some time? If you think this is impossible in today’s work environment, think again!

You can either wait around for the chance opportunity to get yourself in front of the right people, or you can take the initiate and make it happen in the near future. All you need to do is start an Employee Affinity Group within your company! Trust me, I’ve done it in the past and it works.

Starting an Affinity group in five simple steps

Why is an Employee Affinity group a smart idea? Because it brings people together, which, in turn, creates collaboration. Look, you’re not only helping yourself when you create one, but the industry as a whole. Convinced? Great, now let’s look into how it’s done.

Step One: Find someone in Human Resources or Employee Communications to sign off on the idea, sponsor the group, or both. After all, their job is to make the company a better place for employees, and an affinity group will do just that.

Step Two: Propose your plan to start an Employee Affinity group. Once that’s done, pick who you want to appeal to: women, Hispanics, millennial, (you get the idea). TIP: It helps if you’re a cohort of the group you’re trying to petition to.

Step Three: Present your plan. For example, you want to start a group that supports the female (or any group you decide to go with) employees of XYZ Company. The group’s charter is to make company XYZ a more appealing place for women to work for. Further, when crafting your group’s charter, make sure the wording is simple and clear. You’re more likely to get support if people understand your vision.

Step Four: Now that you’re head of the group, you’ll have to present monthly/quarterly events. These events will feature the top executives in your industry, the decision makers of your company, and all the employees who are making a difference. Don’t panic, this is what you’ve been working up to. Remember, you put this whole thing together for the benefit of everyone involved.

Step Five: Find support. To explain, establish a small group of workaholic employees in your company that are willing to support your vision. As head of this group, you’re going to be responsible for organizing these events, so it’s crucial that you have a dedicated team to help you accomplish the group’s goals.

Events equal high level connections

As you organize these events, you’ll find yourself in the position of having to reach out (in the most professional manner possible) to top executives, decision makers, and the like. What are you asking them for? Simply put, to speak for your organization at events, which is an investment of their time. When I was at DIRECTV, we found lunchtime events worked best for everyone. Further, we left enough time for networking before presenting the speakers; this way the VIP will have time to network, which makes the event a good use of his or her time.

Since you’re the one responsible for scheduling the speaker, you’re going to have to contact him or her directly. Once the event concludes, hopefully without a hitch, you’ll send your speaker a thank you note and, voilà, you’ve just made a high level connection in your industry.

If you’re thinking this is an impossible task, think again. At DIRECTV, using this exact model, I started a wonderful group named the Women’s Leadership Exchange. Not only did I meet some extraordinary women within my company, but also I met and established relationships with top female executives in my industry. In other words, I wouldn’t have these connections if it weren’t for the Women’s Leadership Exchange.

The best part? I, along with everyone in the group, made DIRECTV a much better place for female employees. To illustrate, working as an out-shoot of the WLE, a fabulous group of women started a mentoring program, and yet another group started a Toastmaster’s group. It’s both humbling and inspiring to see something you started branch out into so many productive things. The greatest reward? Hearing women tell me how much more working at DTV means to them, thanks to these wonderful programs.

In conclusion, an Affinity Group is more than just an opportunity to meet the right people. Yes, these groups position you in front of top executives, but they also allow for others in your company to network. What are you waiting for? Get out there and make it happen.

Thanks for listening as always,

Toby

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