5 Career-Boosting Benefits of Joining Your Professional Association
By Phaedra Brotherton, JCTC, CPRW, CDF
When reviewing client resumes, I’m often surprised to see that many of my high-achieving, dedicated clients are not members of their professional association or are only “card-carrying” members. In a way, I understand—they are so engrossed in doing outstanding work that participation in a professional organization is the last thing on their mind.
That’s fine until they start reading the signs that change is coming in their company, and they realize they need to “start networking.”
When it comes to career management—be it getting promotions, advancing on the job, or making a job or career change—being involved in your professional organization can be a golden ticket. Here are 5 key benefits of participating in professional organizations.
Easy-Peasy Networking. For many who don’t like to network, your professional organization offers many low-key ways to network naturally—from educational programming, volunteer opportunities, and online and offline networking opportunities.
Most professional organizations have a membership directory or other ways to connect with others in your field to bounce ideas off of for ways to handle day-to-day issues or special projects. Many professional organizations have some sort of online networking forum, which allows you to pose questions and get advice from others dealing with the same issues you do.
For those who are the only “editor” or “education manager” in their organization, these types of connections can play a major role in helping you excel in your profession and serve as a built-in community of colleagues and mentors offering career support.
Top-notch Professional Development. Like to stay up on your field? Attend the many educational opportunities available from professional organizations—from informal roundtables to full-blown conferences. Many organizations sponsor regular educational programs put on by experts in your profession. These programs help you keep up to date on the latest trends and best practices in your field. And you can build your networking by introducing yourself to these experts or contacting them after the session.
In addition to educational programming, organizations often offer certificates and formal certification programs to help you become or prove that you are a true professional in the field. These organizations often set standards for the profession. Investing in these programs can be your opportunity to earn a credential in your field, which really shows that you are committed to the profession as well as a leader in your profession.
Earning a credential can be particularly helpful if you are looking to enter a new field or brush up on your field to make sure you’re up to date on the latest and greatest. And, of course, it looks great on your resume.
Skill Building for Career Growth/Change. Need to get more of a particular type of experience? Professional organizations are always looking for volunteers. Interested in getting more budgeting experience? Volunteer to serve on the finance committee or run a special program with a budget or serve on the fundraising committee. Not only will you learn new skills in a low-pressure way, but you’ll be rubbing elbows with others in your field who you get to know you and see you in action.
Personal Branding and Thought-leadership. Another major benefit is that most professional organizations have a publication, blog, or events, and are always looking for contributors and speakers. If you have ever been interested in writing or speaking, here is where you can share your opinions and your company’s success stories to both share experiences with your fellow professionals as well as build your reputation as a giver and an expert in your field.
Targeted Job Searching. Finally, many professional organizations have employment sites with job listings specific to your professional field. Of course, the best thing to do is to combine this information with networking.
If you are an active member of the organization, you can often contact people who work for the companies advertising these positions. Before the Internet (BTI?), I often contacted members of my professional organization to ask them if they’d be willing to answer a couple of questions about an advertised position; I even CC’d them on the resume I eventually sent to HR. Introducing yourself as a “fellow member of XYZ association” can often open doors. After all, most people do join a professional organization to network, and this is a very powerful and targeted way to do it.
How to Find Groups. You can join your national or international organization, e.g., National Association of Meeting Planners, and/or your local organization, i.e., Virginia Association of Meeting Planners. You can do a simple google search, such as "associations" and "meeting planners" to start finding organizations of interest to connect with.
A Professional Investment. Yes—professional organizations do cost money to join and there’s a time commitment—if you’re involved. Unfortunately, many professionals forgo joining their professional organization if their employer does not cover professional organization dues or conference or program fees. But many find that purchasing a membership or a program is a high-yield investment that pays off nicely in long-term career success.