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Top 10 Reasons User Groups are Good for Both You and Your Employer

Attending user group meetings can have many benefits to both you and your employer. Not all necessary skills and knowledge are gained simply from job experience and education alone. In addition to on-the-job training, an employee will garner much needed information from experts in the field and in turn add value to their employer when they apply the new skills. As an employer, the investment in your employee’s skills and training will give you an invaluable return on investment.

  1. Gain New Knowledge
    In the typical user group, you will learn something new at just about every single meeting. Sometimes vendors speak about technologies, and other times members teach other members. Just remember: A knowledgeable employee is a valuable employee.
  2. Networking
    User group attendees are often people who are in a similar field as you. After all, everyone is attending the same meetings to get the same information. Don’t be afraid to exchange contact information and stay in touch. Whether your user group focuses on SQL server, development, or information technology, it is part of a larger community of peers. By networking, you can help your peers in more ways than you may think, and vice versa.
  3. Free Food and/or Swag
    While the main purpose of the meetings is the information presented, there are often added bonuses for attending. Many user groups provide food or swag as give aways to attendees. It can sometimes be difficult to spend the little free time you have attending user group meetings. Sometimes a slice of pizza or a free book can make it an easier decision.
  4. Ask Questions and Get Answers
    One of the big benefits of attending a live presentation is that you can interact with the presenters and the audience. Many times I have heard difficult questions asked of the presenter, and the answers actually provided by audience members who understand the environment even better than the presenter does… Remember, many attendees are probably in the same field as you. Also check to see if your local groups have email lists where members can pose questions to the entire group and get feedback, as this can be a valuable resource.
  5. Find a Job
    In these tough economic times, many qualified professionals are finding themselves without a job. If you are in this situation, I highly suggest being part of one or more user groups! Not only are you gaining information that makes you more marketable, but other members may be looking to hire someone just like you.
  6. Find a Candidate
    User group members who are hiring often post job offers to the user group. It is an excellent pool of highly qualified candidates who tend to be of higher caliber. User group members tend to be the type of people who always want to go above and beyond to expand their knowledge and capabilities. This is a perfect place to look for that Network Admin role you may be trying to fill.
  7. Build Friendships
    As you attend more meetings, you tend to see the same people, and build friendships that go beyond your technology interests. You will meet interesting people from all walks of life. You may even run into one unexpectedly at another event you are attending alone, which can make the event even better.
  8. Become a More Rounded Employee
    Every employer wants employees who are willing to go the extra mile. In the technology world, things are constantly changing. By talking to other user group attendees, you just may find that others have implemented processes that you never even considered. I always love to hear how others have come up with a great solution thinking outside the box.
    If you have the time and ability, volunteer some of your time to help with your user group, or with an event. It is a great way to meet people, and learn along the way. It also looks great on your resume.
  9. Learn How to Be at the Top 1% of Your field
    Like I said before, group members tend to be the type of people who always want to go above and beyond to expand their knowledge and capabilities. In any technology field, complacency does not lead to a prosperous career. To be the best we can be, we have to learn, learn, and learn some more. Talk to other attendees to find out what they do to stay ahead of the curve. Everyone learns differently, so try everything and find what works best for you.
  10. Learn about Different Vendors and Products
    If you work as a network or sever administrator, you may work with the same products day in and day out. It’s good to see what other breakthroughs other tech companies have created. For example, storage has changed drastically in the past few years. A few years ago, SAN was what everyone wanted, now the real performance comes when you get rid of the LUNs. If you’re not seeing the different vendors, you’re missing out on solutions that may make your life a whole lot easier. Plus you can really impress the boss when you come up with a plan that will triple performance, double capacity, and halve the cost.

As you can see, attending user group meetings not only benefits yourself as a professional, but is also a big benefit to employers. Participate in your local user group meetings, learn something new, and make some friends in the process. If you are a veteran in the field, I highly encourage you to consider becoming a leader in the user group community. It is hard to beat the great feeling of helping others learn and grow.

Today, more and more employers are pushing their employees to be in the public eye (i.e., social media). Along with all of the benefits of attending user group meetings mentioned in this blog post, becoming a leader in the user group community can provide a certain credibility that is otherwise difficult to obtain.

About the author

Robert Borges

About Robert...

I have been in the IT industry since 1993 focusing mainly in networking. Though I got an early start as an amateur computer enthusiast, and wrote my first database app at age 12, I started my professional career working in the MIS department of one of the largest liquor distributors in the northeast. I started out there as a systems operator on the company’s two mainframe systems. From there I moved into PC support, and help design and implement the company’s first client-server network… This was back in the days of Win NT 3.51. I also worked on my first migration to NT 4.0 back then.

From there I went on to work with Novell 3.x and 4.x along with Windows domains and active directory environments. Working my way up from technician, to specialist, to administrator, and eventually all the way up to Sr. Engineer. I spent many years working for consulting firms, 9 of which I owned and operated my own firm.
Over the years, I have worked with (at an expert level) various versions of: Windows client and server operating systems (including Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2);various virtualization technologies (Hyper-V, Virtual Server, Virtual PC, VMware, etc…); MS-SQL server 6.5- 2008 R2; Exchange 4-2010, and much more.

I am now Director of Information Systems at Bay State Integrated Technology focusing on cloud computing and IT service, with expertise in: IT Infrastructure & Architecture, IT Security, and Cloud Computing platforms & technologies (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS).

I am in a constant state of learning about new products, and new versions of products. Many of which we end up implementing in lab environments and sometimes for our clients. I have a pretty broad range of expertise and experience. It is my goal to share some of this experience on this blog to help enrich the IT community.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.robertborges.us/2015/01/learning-resources/top-10-reasons-user-groups-are-good-for-both-you-and-your-employer/

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