Welles: Birds of a feather

Networking is an invaluable skill, but where are the best places for federal employees to connect?

Whether you are a new federal employee, searching for a new or better job, or thinking about the next step after retirement, networking is critical to getting ahead. As the saying goes, it isn’t just what you know but who you know that matters. Through networking, you may not meet the person who will hire you, but you might meet a person who knows which agency or company is hiring and can offer you valuable advice.

There are many organizations with luncheons and conferences for new learning, meeting others and networking. For example, AFCEA International has military, government and industry members.

AFCEA’s 136 chapters have members who work with communications, intelligence, imaging and information systems technologies.

Three of AFCEA’s largest chapters are in the Washington area. AFCEA NOVA has about 6,000 members. AFCEA D.C. brings speakers with expertise in government technology policy, regulatory and budget affairs to conferences. Fees are $35 a year, with discounts for enlisted personnel and multiyear memberships. AFCEA’s Bethesda, Md., chapter has grown into one of the organization’s most influential. Its members have monthly breakfast meetings.

AFCEA also has the Young AFCEANs group, whose members are 40 years old and younger. The group holds Mentor Protégé Night, an evening of networking with government and industry leaders.

The American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council provide education and networking.

ACT has about 2,000 government members. IAC has 560 industry members.

“ACT crosses industry and government to provide a safe forum,” said ACT President Martha Dorris, deputy associate administrator for citizen services at the General Services Administration.

As part of a new initiative, ACT is arranging special roundtables for rising stars in government to meet and talk with successful government and industry executives.

Sessions will feature Karen Evans, administrator for e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget, and Anne Altman, general manager of IBM’s mainframe platform technology business.

“I want to open up my world to new employees in government and bring them in touch with the career paths of distinguished leaders,” Dorris said.

For employees nearing retirement, ACT provides many opportunities to interact with leaders from industry, Dorris said. It has several shared interest groups, including one that will make recommendations to the next administration on IT issues.

Interested employees can attend luncheons and two major annual management conferences without paying general fees.

One of ACT’s affiliated groups is the Association for Federal Information Resources Management, whose mission is to improve the management of information in the federal government. Its members include information resources management professionals. Membership for government employees is $25 annually.

Welles (judywelles@1105govinfo.com) is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week.

About the Author

Judith Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md.

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