Community user groups are a great way to find other professionals in your area and expand your list of contacts. You can often leverage knowledge from these professionals or even obtain work for each other.
The forums at TechRepublic are a great meeting place for IT pros of all stripes to connect to one another, find areas of common interest, and explore technical problems. User groups further complement those kinds of opportunities by specializing in a specific technology or bringing together IT pros in a particular region.
The goal of the user group is to assemble IT professionals together at some frequency to meet and discuss common areas of interest. For example, I have been an executive for going on four years now in the Ottawa’s Windows Server User Group. We even collaborate sometimes with a fellow group, the Montreal IT PRO user group, for some initiatives. Typically, our groups focus on Microsoft technologies, but there have been presentations on other technologies as well, such as VMware and APC UPS monitoring.
User groups, their Web sites, and resources can be a big benefit to you by expanding your resource pool and offering some fun at the same time. For example, the OWSUG has helped some IT professionals get exposure within the community by hosting a blog for communicating their areas of expertise.
Another way to leverage the power of user groups is to create study groups for help in achieving certifications. The study-group format is particularly useful because members can leverage the “group push” and motivate themselves to work harder and keep pace with their studies. Like any study group, you can get help when you need it and provide encouragement to others working toward the same goal.
As an example of a way to find a user group near you, Microsoft hosts this guide: http://www.microsoft.com/communities/usergroups/default.mspx. User group members often receive incentives from Microsoft or other sponsors such as invitations to attend special events, which they would otherwise not be eligible for. Of course, user groups exist for just about any IT niche that you would be interested in, so look up a user group in your community today and Get Your Geek On!
Are you a member of a user group? How has it helped you in your work? Let us know if you have other suggestions for ways to leverage the power of user groups in your worklife.
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