Anita Roddick type, great prospects, seeks next Branson. No time wasters

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The Independent Culture
If you're a dynamic young professional there's one society that guarantees you a network of contacts with top people. This is, of course, the Masons. Those less inclined to flash their left breast in public, however, will be pleased to hear about Amicus - the Association of Young Professionals.

Should anyone ever accuse you of being a workaholic and suggest you "get a life", then Amicus claims to deliver just that for a mere pounds 250 per annum. Bargain!

New job - new location? Or perhaps you've "downshifted", and work increasingly from home. In the era of the Mobile Office, it's becoming increasingly tricky to keep up a thriving social circle. That's where Amicus comes in, providing "instant" friends - at their weekly, informal get-togethers in vetted venues.

In addition to regular meetings there are also talks by key industry personnel, group outings, activity holidays, and a mind-boggling variety of pastimes from bungee jumping to West End theatre. Many are offered at substantial discounts to Amicus members.

Its own description of members: restricted to "professionals and proven high achievers - from graduate to thirtysomething..." suggests a sort of Club 18-30 for people who'd not be seen dead at a Club 18-30. Founder Stewart Cook dispels accusations of snobbery, though he admits: "We want to keep it quite tightly focused. Ambitious people who can really contribute something to the organisation. Every case is judged on its merits. We will accept non-graduates if they have a proven track record."

Amicus is certainly not aiming to help lonely executives find the businessman- or-woman of their dreams. Its special rates for members' spouses would seem to bear this out. The mutually stimulating partnerships Amicus most hopes to foster are of a professional nature. Members can utilise meetings to mingle with industry's great and good in a more relaxed environment. Companies, meanwhile, can search the comprehensive database to locate postgraduate students whose ideas could help keep them on the cutting edge.

Don't bother joining if you just want to hang out with the glitterati of the business world, though - "We're not looking to play the celebrity card," explains Cook. "We want members who are down-to-earth, but highly motivated."

Personally, I can think of nothing more depressing than being buttonholed in a bar by some ghastly, overambitious Young Professional who insists on talking business all night. Worse still, the weekly sessions could - conceivably - degenerate into cliques of embryonic Bransons and Roddicks, all furiously plying each other with alcohol in the hope of loosening tongues and overhearing a trade secret or two. Possible consequences of the Amicus Tank Driving Day, scheduled for later this year, are even more disconcerting.

Stewart Cook plays down such gloomy forecasts. And he should know. It was in 1997, while commuting in order to pursue his studies, that the idea for Amicus dawned. Cook realised how tricky socialising was made by the pressures of modern business life. Weekly, organised meetings ensued at a local bar. These grew in popularity, and Cook was soon joined by co-founder Adrian Bowcher, an experienced bank manager who provides the business expertise.

Amicus' online database makes full use of the Internet - members can use this to find fellow professionals with similar skills, complementary interests, or even to track down an old chum. Security is paramount, and best of all - your details will never be made available to hordes of direct- marketeers. Technology is also put to more creative uses. Fed up with wasting your time completing endless applications for magazine subscriptions and so forth? Let Amicus do it - using personal information stored on- line, thus leaving you far more time for the important tasks (like bungee jumping, etc). Hey presto! No more tedious form-filling. Sadly, there is - as yet - no way to get Amicus to complete your Self Assessment tax return for you. But look on the bright side. At least they can help you find a friendly accountant.

Amicus, No.1 Vale Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1BS Tel: (01892) 544645 Fax: (01892) 544551

Debbie Barham