I belong to a group called the Professional Consultant's Association of Central New York. It's an organization of consultants, of course, but it allows us to get together on a monthly basis, share information with each other, have a presentation, and basically learn more about each other so that, if something comes up where they know someone looking for a consultant, there might be someone within the group who can help solve the client's needs.

Obviously the group has a website (I'm the webmaster), but it also has an ethics policy (which is the most visited page on the site), articles (yours truly has two articles on there), a search function so people can look for certain types of consultants, and the rules and policies for joining the group.

I also sit on the board, so whenever there are new applications, I get to participate in the process of deciding whether an applicant fits the structure. In our minds, a consultant is someone who provides mostly services for their clients, rather than products, and derives most of their income from that.

They're mostly independent, but some do work for consulting companies, and for our purposes those people qualify. Other small business people would qualify also, such as plumbers and electricians, because they do provide services more than product. We also have a monthly newsletter (yours truly is the editor) and each member gets a directory of every other member, as well as a page on the website that they can use if they don't actually have their own website, or can link their website to for SEO purposes.

What do we talk about? Well, most of the time we try to have presenters on topics of marketing, networking, and technology. We sometimes have a group session where the entire meeting is geared towards kind of a Q&A among the group. These turn out to be popular because everyone in the room learns from everyone else, and we all get to realize that we've all been in the same boat, all have had highs and lows, major successes and crushing struggles, and issues with marketing and sales. We've had some big time local business leaders come in to present to us, telling us their stories of growth and missteps along the way.

What the group is NOT is a tip club. We're there to network with each other, but our purpose is not to help anyone find work. Our purpose is education and commiseration; after all, being an independent consultant or worker can be somewhat lonely, and oftentimes we feel like we're totally alone, and that no one else understands the struggles we go through; this group easily understands.

I've spent a lot of time promoting this group here, and some of you might be asking why. There are two reasons really.

One, because I feel this group deserves to be known better by everyone, and I'm hoping to help increase our membership (you have to be in the Syracuse, NY area to be a member).

Two, because every industry has groups like this, geared towards a specialty that a manager within the organization is geared towards. Management can be lonely also, and often managers feel like no one else understands their problems and issues, even other managers within the organization.

As I look back at healthcare, I belonged to a local and national medical billing group and a local and national financial group, but there were groups for purchasing, nursing, physical therapy, respiratory, electroencephalogists, human resources, etc. These are all groups where people get together, network, and learn more about what it is they do. Some people took advantage of it, some didn't, but everyone who did always appreciated the opportunity to learn more about their careers. It's something more people should think about if they want to get better at what they do.

So, think about joining a group that's in your field. And if you live in the Syracuse, NY area and are an independent proprietor of some sort, and want to learn more about PCA, contact me or visit the website to learn more.