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April 30, 2020
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there were 105,732 employer establishments and 1,709,226 workers in the state of Louisiana as of 2018. There were 414,291 statewide firms as of 2012. Louisiana is bustling with business and employment opportunities—a place where dedicated professionals can establish firm careers.
But succeeding in business and building a strong career takes more than having a revolutionary idea or an expert skill set. Creating a strong business network is crucial for entrepreneurs and workers as they evolve in their roles, seek to create new partnerships, and find new career opportunities. According to PayScale, experts estimate that 70%–85% of new jobs are found through networking.
Louisiana professionals who may understand networking’s importance may not be aware of state resources available to help build and maintain strong business connections. This guide will serve as a valuable source of tips, events, and resources to help Louisiana professionals develop a robust professional network and achieve success in their careers.
A great place to start when building a professional network is by becoming active in local and state networking organizations. These groups provide events, training, and mentorship opportunities to help their members in their careers.
Business Network International (BNI) Louisiana provides referral and education services to small businesses and has more than 240,000 members in chapters across the world according to its website. In Louisiana, BNI has almost 50 chapters across the state, in locations including New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Shreveport. To join, interested businesses need to submit an application and pay subsequent fees, which include a $199 application fee, participation fees, and membership fees ($499 for one year or $799 for two years).
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) is a group dedicated to leading “economic development in the nine-parish Baton Rouge Area.” But the group also provides a comprehensive list of professional and networking organizations where individuals from different industries can meet like-minded professionals. For example, a current broadcasting professional in Baton Rouge can use the list to find the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters. Bankers and engineers can navigate the list to find the Louisiana Bankers Association or the Louisiana Engineering Society.
According to a report from the Louisiana Workforce Commission, significant job growth is expected “in the industries of healthcare and social assistance (15.9 percent) and management of companies and enterprises (12.5 percent)” by 2024. Current and aspiring health care workers in Louisiana can be proactive by joining networking organizations dedicated to health. MGMA-Louisiana offers events, education initiatives, and other services to its members in six chapters across the state.
504ward is a nonprofit organization that aims “to retain the influx of young talent in the New Orleans region” while providing 21–35-year-old professionals with access to events and networking opportunities in Louisiana’s largest city. In addition to providing regular events and volunteer opportunities, 504ward provides members with access to job boards, leadership development programs, entrepreneurial resources, mentorship opportunities, and more. To join, interested parties need to fill out an information form on 504ward’s website.
According to its website, the Louisiana Federation of Business and Professional Women “is an alliance of diverse individuals, dedicated to improving the professional, personal, economic and educational outlook of women.” There are seven chapters located in cities such as New Orleans, Lake Charles, and St. Bernard Parish. The federation offers mentorship and career services to women between 21 and 35 years old through its Young Careerist program and hosts meetings, events, and celebrations throughout the year. Membership prices vary depending on what chapters potential members want to join and if they’re students.
The Southwest Louisiana Women’s Business Network “recognizes the efforts and accomplishments of Women in Business and offers networking and professional development opportunities,” according to its Facebook page. The organization hosts events throughout the year with business leaders and provides networking and educational opportunities to participants.
“Founded in 1990, the Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business (LCWGB) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan leadership organization dedicated to empowering women and promoting female involvement,” according to the organization’s website. The LCWGB hosts events throughout the year including the Louisiana Girls Leadership Academy, the Louisiana Women’s Leaders Business Conference, and a national summit on small business entrepreneurship for women.
The New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce (NORBCC) offers resources to members including business networking, business referrals, promotion, and procurement opportunities. Membership prices range from $100 to $1,250 depending on professional or student status and organization size.
Based in Miami Gardens, Florida, the Black Professionals Network offers networking and business resources to black professionals across the country. Members have access to summits, mentoring programs, regular events, conferences, and more. Membership prices vary depending on professional or student status.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana (HCCL) is dedicated to facilitating business and providing networking opportunities for business leaders within the Hispanic community. The chamber also has a young professionals committee that aims to “foster the growth of the Hispanic young professional community through networking, leadership development, and community service,” according to its website. Membership to the HCCL is required to join the young professionals committee.
The Gulf South LGBT Chamber is “a network of LGBT and ally business owners, corporate partners, and community leaders that support business development and equality,” according to its website. The organization hosts events that benefit LGBT professionals. Members can enjoy networking and business sponsorship opportunities, depending on their membership level.
For both aspiring entrepreneurs and those currently at the reins of their own small businesses, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) provides tools and resources for accessing new markets, generating capital, managing financials, and more. The LSBDC has 10 locations in the state and hosts regular events and workshops for young entrepreneurs where they can also network.
The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) has several chapters across the country. Its Louisiana chapter aids entrepreneurs looking to expand their networks and connect with other business-minded individuals across the state. EO also hosts events and forums and even provides access to health services.
The following professional organizations are dedicated to fostering positive career relationships and helping professionals grow. They may also provide events, educational opportunities, and additional resources.
Eventbrite is a website that lists events happening in areas that pertain to users’ interests. By searching “networking” on Eventbrite, users will see professional-related events across the state, including discussions with business experts, career fairs, networking brunches, and summits.
On the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce website is a list of various business-related and networking events happening in the city. Events include power lunches, women’s networking events, panel discussions, and leadership seminars.
The New Orleans Career Fair offers job seekers the opportunity to connect with individuals hiring in fields like management, government, and health care. The event is free; participants just need to register online.
Professional organizations and networking events are helpful for meeting other professionals, but these aren’t the only places where networking takes place. Social gatherings and local community events can become opportunities whereby successful professional relationships can begin.
A common mistake that professionals make is to network only when they need a job or a career boost or when they’re trying to obtain funding or support for their businesses. Building successful relationships is worthwhile at any time in a career as it enables professionals to gain advice and perspective from other leaders and to generate relationships that are valuable both now and in the future.
The benefits of forging a new relationship with another professional can extend beyond that person. A financial analyst may not have apparent business opportunities for a civil engineer, but both individuals can benefit from the other’s extended professional network.
Networking isn’t confined to in-person meetings or events. Digital networking tools such as LinkedIn enable individuals to reach out to professionals within their fields and other sectors. Other digital tools, such as Facebook, Instagram, and even email, are helpful for reaching out to professionals.