Oct. 29--When it comes to business networking for the city's multicultural professional class, Boston is home to some of the best and most active groups in the country.
Local organizations host everything from social meet-ups to community giveback events to job-hunting and leadership training.
Networking is a good way for professionals from the city's various minority groups to meet people, swap information and keep in the loop for advancing their careers.
The Boston chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting has some 2,300 members, the second-largest chapter in the country, and is set to celebrate its 40th anniversary with a leadership summit on Nov. 15. ALPFA sponsors a large array of monthly events and hosts annual summits on executive leadership, and for Latina women and students. Thirty percent of its Boston members are students, many belonging to six chartered campus chapters.
"We're a group of very talented people who happen to be diverse," said ALPFA Executive Director Radhames Nova.
ALPFA began as a networking group for finance professionals, but has expanded into health care and law and with a veterans initiative. Nova says 20 percent of Hub chapter members are non-Latino, and anyone can join for the $120 annual membership fee, or $20-$30 annually for students.
"We don't ask companies what they can do for us, we ask them what we can do to present job candidates that will add value to them," said Nova, whose organization has 45 corporate partners, including State Street Corp., TJX, John Hancock and Liberty Mutual. "We develop trustworthy relationships with our corporate partners so we can introduce them to the best-qualified members of our organization."
Nova immigrated from the Dominican Republic to Lawrence when he was 13. He joined the Boy's and Girl's Club, to which he returned after college to be its first fundraising director. He earned a master's degree in business and began a career in the investments business, where fellow ALPFA members got him a start. He was offered the executive director post a year ago.
"Coming from where I did, without privilege, I understand how difficult it is to cultivate relationships that could get you into one of the big companies," Nova said.
The 400-member Boston chapter of the National Association of Asian-American Professionals also uses its corporate sponsorships to help its members advance their careers.
"We have an exclusive listing of jobs from our corporate sponsors," said chapter president Ming Hui, an analyst in the Global Credit Research group at Putnam Investments, one of the group's gold sponsors, along with State Street, Liberty Mutual and Harvard Pilgrim. NAAAP has given away $130,000 in college scholarships to local Asian high school students over the past five years.
NAAAP also sponsors four events every month, including "industry dinners," where members can meet other professionals in their fields and make contacts for jobs. Several events are mock-interview and resume workshops with human resources professionals. NAAAP also has four quarterly conferences focusing on career advancement. And to be a member, it costs $35 a year ($25 for students).
Hui, who started as a NAAAP member and now leads the local chapter, said she and other members have developed leadership skills by taking on responsibilities for the group, which has no paid staff.
"It's been good for me, and for my job at Putnam," said Hui, a Babson grad whose latest promotion has her in charge of analyzing 80 companies covering some $1 billion worth of assets.
Networking groups provide leadership training to help members get promotions and advance their careers. The most well-known and influential in the area are leadership training workshops offered by The Partnership, a 25-year-old Boston-based group with 250 corporate partners that has trained more than 3,000 local minority professionals, including Nova and Hui, to become leaders in the city's corporate structure. Open to all minorities in the city, The Partnership offers intense weeklong workshops and once-a-month programs for a year for both up-and-coming and mid-career executives who are sent by their companies to participate. Here they learn best practices and how to advance to senior positions in their companies.
"As the journey to have more diverse representation in our corporations advances, it's not about social justice but about business," said The Partnership's CEO Carol Fulp, a former top marketing executive at John Hancock, who became head of The Partnership six months ago. "Having diverse perspectives is now critical for companies that operate in a global marketplace, and who are looking for ways to reach people from other cultures with their products and services."
Fulp said one training challenge for minorities is learning to be their true selves in the workplace, because she says "people do their best work when they're comfortable. There are benefits to having different perspectives for companies to serve their target markets and grow their businesses."
Fulp insisted that there's more to professional business networking than just advancing yourself.
"Our motto is not only should you succeed, but you must bring others along with you," she said. "The more executives become part of the larger community, the more likely they will stay in the Boston area, and fostering retention and personal growth are a big part of what we do. The best networkers are ambassadors as well as leaders."
The business/community approach is also embraced by ALPFA and NAAAP, which offer frequent community giveback events, where group members help nonprofits, mentor students and volunteer to serve on boards in community organizations.
Multicultural networking is moving in another direction, toward events that bring together different minority groups. Public relations guru Colette Phillips is a pioneer in this area with her monthly Get Konnected! professional business networking events.
"These groups have been operating in silos, with members networking with people from their own cultural groups," said Phillips, who holds the events in upscale venues with guest speakers who run the gamut from business leaders to master chefs. "I thought it would be spectacular to get members from different organizations together on a regular basis."
Get Konnected has been sponsoring free events that attract 200-300 people with the support of its corporate partners and affinity groups that include ALPFA, NAAAP and The Partnership.
"We get everyone from CEOs to grad students at our events," Phillips said, adding that its next event is scheduled for Nov. 27 at the Back Bay Social Club. "It's a great way to meet people who could help you get a job in an informal and fun setting."
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