Chambers of Commerce: the successful job hunter’s best kept secret

What are Chambers of Commerce?

Chambers of Commerce are membership organisations which businesses can join to access services to help them grow and play a part in their local business community. They exist around the world at the local, regional and national level. Bristol Chamber of Commerce is run by Business West. You can easily find Chambers for your nearest home town or city, or home country, by searching online. For example, “[name of city] Chamber of Commerce.”

Members come from a wide range of sectors; financial services, the legal sector, engineering, education, manufacturing, marketing, media, property, and many more.

How can Chambers help me get a job or work experience?

Whilst Chambers of Commerce exist to help their business members, not students or graduates directly, you can use them to dramatically increase your job or work experience prospects:

1.Access up-to-date sector information

Chambers typically run committees or forums dedicated to different sectors and regularly publish reports or blog posts. You can find a wealth of detail about sectors you’re interested in, wherever you wish to work in the world. Example reports include India’s retail sector, and Detroit’s automotive industry. Subscribe to Chamber newsletters and social media accounts to keep informed on the latest developments.

2. Develop useful relationships

When life returns to normal, Chamber networking events present an excellent way to make professional connections.  You can attend many of these as a non-member, and they are often free or low cost.  Look for events aimed at students or young professionals, or which  are more informal rather than those aimed exclusively at business development. If in doubt about whether you would be welcome, contact the Chamber to ask. Although independent of Bristol Chamber, Bristol Young Professionals offer another way to meet people in the city and they are happy for professionally-minded students to attend their events.

Don’t just rely on events. Why not invite Chamber staff, or active business members, to connect with you on LinkedIn? Read our top tips for creating your LinkedIn profile and connecting with others.

3. Find jobs and internships

Many Chambers advertise positions suitable for students and graduates, either within the Chamber itself or with their members. You can also access the “hidden job market” by approaching members speculatively, ideally having first built a relationship with people working for your target employers. See our sample cover letters and advice on making speculative applications.

TOP TIP for international students or anyone wanting to work abroad

Seek out British Chambers based abroad, or similar business organisations which exist to develop trade between the UK and another country or region. Just a few examples are British Chamber of Commerce in Beijing , the UK India Business Council the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and the British African Business Alliance. In Bristol, the West of England China Bureau offers student membership and hosts a range of fun events where you can forge invaluable professional connections.

Members of these organisations will value your knowledge of the UK, and your knowledge of (or at least interest in) the overseas country.