In my previous blog titled “The Key to Building Your Rock Star Team,” I wrote on the importance of building a network of “rock stars” that you could potentially hire when an opening becomes available in your organization. The question still remains not only how, but also where in Grand Rapids you can source this top talent. Keep in mind that my following recommendation are not strictly places where you can source only unemployed talent. The majority of the population is open to a career change if they see value in making the transition. Below I will share some of the best professional organizations, events, and places throughout West Michigan.
There are tons of wonderful organizations and networking groups throughout West Michigan. The website compiled an elaborate list here of some of these organizations. Conveniently, they also included the various links to the organizations social pages as well. Some of my notable favorites include:

Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence (GRAPE), which provides educational workshops, networking events, wonderful blog posts (such as this one!), as well as connections to many more local resources.

Grand Rapids Young Professionals (GRYP), which provides network opportunities to find local “young guns” ready to make a change in your organization. GRYP offers educational events with their personal growth breakfast series, company tours, luncheon speakers, and various networking events.

LinkedUp Grand Rapids (LinkedUp), which boasts over 12,000 members, offers an array of networking events and opportunities to connect members through numerous social media networks.

As Grand Rapids continues to develop, the development of events and places to build your network also grows. Below are a few of my favorite events:

Start Garden is a 15,000,000 start-up fund and investment incubator. Their program assists entrepreneurs in turning their ideas into action. My first experience with this organization was during a networking night. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many “rock stars” mingling in one place!

If the term entrepreneur scares you off when hiring potential candidates, don’t let it. Simply view these entrepreneurs as ambitious, creative, visionary people. On top of organized social nights, Start Garden offers many events and classes that you could utilize to source potential hires and business professionals. offers a common place for groups to organize “meetup’s” and network with various members. You can find a list of many groups and clubs located throughout Grand Rapids here.  What’s great is that not only can you develop your own group, but join others to network with other individuals who share similar interests.

Another wonderful aspect of West Michigan is the number of quality universities in the surrounding area. As a member of Gen Y, I’m a firm believer in acquiring young talent and providing these individuals with the necessary tools to be successful within your organization. With that being said, there are local career fairs that your company should be involved in. Here are some links including dates:

GVSU: Schedule
Cornerstone University: Schedule
Calvin College: Schedule
Western Michigan University: Schedule

Although this is only a few of the local career fairs, one major event that you should note is the October called “Career Fest.” This is held in the DeVos Center and almost every college in the area will be sending students to this event. In my experience, I’ve seen that a majority of the students in attendance are driven and talented individuals. It’s also a great opportunity to have a member of your team walk around and hold impromptu interviews! (They’re all looking for a job, right?).

The bar is typically a place to take clients or team members, catch up with friends, or simply have a good ol’ time. I’ve learned that many bars are catering to this type of interaction, but I prefer bars that have an atmosphere more conducive to professional networking.

I’ve met countless business professionals of all ages by simply initiating meaningful conversation with the surrounding patrons (Disclosure: this is not always the case!). These people may have been employed, unemployed, self-employed, or perhaps retired. Regardless, I’ve learned that most are always willing to listen when it comes to potential career opportunities.

I could write an entire blog on some of my favorite bars for networking in Grand Rapids. In fact, I think I’ll do just that. Be sure to stay tuned for an article on my top 5 downtown bars to do business.

Do you know additional organizations, events, or places to find top talent in Grand Rapids? Have you had any luck forming professional relationships at any of these places? Let me know in the comments below!

Blog Post by Kyle Johnson, seeking actual responsibilities with a growing company in the area of Strategy & Business Development