I was unbelievably calm after attending the Google Hangout in which I was let go from my job at Ellevest—along with the rest of my department.
I always knew I would one day return to my private coaching practice, but I was still terrified. Not necessarily about focusing on my LLC full-time, but about losing the relationships I had built during my nearly two years with the company … and not being able to collaborate with colleagues on a day-to-day basis.
With the rise of remote and hybrid work, making connections with people you would normally meet at an office has become more challenging. In fact, newly hired remote or hybrid employees have half the internal network size as more tenured employees, according to recent research by Time Is Ltd. And those who can’t effectively build a network tend to have poor job satisfaction and less productivity.
Enter networking groups.
Being part of a networking group (or several) is not only a means of achieving professional success in your chosen career, it can also be a great way to exchange ideas, gain self-confidence, open doors for new opportunities and, of course, get support and advice from like-minded individuals and experts across various industries.
The key question, though, is how much do these groups costs—and are they worth the investment. Many have membership fees, charge extra for certain events, require travel for in-person meet-ups (which means gas!) and can take up a fair amount of time. So you really want to consider the pros and cons.
Finding Your Network
First, figure out what your goals are. Are you trying to get a new job? Do you need advice about your career trajectory? Do you want to meet C-suite women and collaborate? Or do you just want someone to talk to who will understand what you’re going through?
Next, figure out if the network demographics match what you want and need. In other words, try to identify the types of professionals you’d be connecting with—which industries they’re in, which career levels they’re at, how old they are, etc. You don’t want to join (and pay for) a group only to learn it’s all women in tech when you’re interested in fashion, or that it’s a group specifically for Gen X women executives when you’re a Gen Zer just starting out in your first role.
And lastly, look at the range of prices. There are, of course, many free groups you can join—like Meetup.com—but they don’t always focus on professional development and cater to professional women.
Groups to Consider
Here are a few I’d recommend looking into if you aren’t sure where to start:
What’s great about this group is—after you complete an application and a 20-minute chat with a representative in which you outline your objectives—it does all the work for you, using an algorithm to accurately match you with a diverse “Cru” of U.S.-based women with similar interests and intents.
Once you’re registered, you can meet with your team (virtually) every month or so, you’ll be assigned a team leader who checks in with you periodically, you can search for and privately message members of the Cru community and you can attend virtual workshops and interviews.
The Cru also uses a “digital goal tracking tool” so you can better measure your success along the way. Oh, and the Cru was founded by Tiffany Dufu, a pioneer in women’s leadership who was appropriately named one of Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women.
While joining this group isn’t necessarily the cheapest option—it’s $49 per month or $499 per year—I believe that the insights and connections you’ll gain are invaluable.
This global group for women+ offers a nice blend of virtual roundtables, local chapter meetups (like coffee hangs, happy hours and book clubs) and access to Ellevate Experts. Similar to he Cru, you can also join a hand-picked Ellevate Squad that you’ll meet with virtually once a week during a 12-week program.
While there is a free version of this network, you’ll only get limited perks, like access to the Ellevate Podcast and the library of career articles—if you want to attend an event or workshop, it’s $20. There is also a Basic membership, which is $5 per month and gives you the free stuff I just mentioned, plus direct messaging with the experts (and attending events is only $15). But what you really want, especially if networking is your goal, is the Pro membership, which is $40 per month, or the Executive membership, which is $150 per month. These include free access to all virtual events, discounts on in-person events, the Squads Program, the Ellevate Experts Program and, with the executive membership, a Private Executive Community.
Many women know the unique challenges of building a career while also trying to raise kids. That’s where HeyMama comes in. It’s a members-only network—social and professional—for working moms. It was cofounded by Amri Kibbler (now the CCO) and Katya Libin to address a gap in the market that they themselves were experiencing: a network of career-driven mothers.
If that sounds like you too, consider this group, which offers mentorship and professional development through on-demand events, in-person meetups, an annual conference, one-on-one office hours and more—all for $399 annually.
Are They Worth It?
Now that you’ve read about what some of these networks have to offer, let’s revisit the “Are they worth it?” question. The short answer? It depends what group you join and what you get in return.
But how about we let the numbers do the talking. More than 85% of jobs are said to be filled through networking (because about 70% of jobs are never published publicly). About 80% of professionals believe that networking has been key to their success and nearly 100% believe that face-to-face meetings help build stronger long-term relationships. Furthermore, if you’re one of the nearly 50% of people who think they don’t have enough time to network, being part of a group with a set schedule and coaches can help hold you accountable. In my experience, being part of a networking group can also lead to speaking engagements, new clients and new business opportunities.
As such, as I return to my private (remote) practice, I’m going to be hosting a biweekly career coach collective. This will allow me to maintain relationships with my former colleagues at Ellevest, collaborate and grow my business. I’m also considering in investing in a new networking group for more support as a female entrepreneur. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.
Gala Jackson is a certified career and executive leadership coach.