One constant throughout my career has been involvement in gold standard professional associations. I was fortunate early in my profession to become involved in a state level professional education association. I attended a few meetings and conferences and became hooked with the knowledge that was shared. Most interestingly, it provided me the opportunity to collaborate and discuss ideas with other colleagues who are passionate about their professional development. In a short amount of time I was asked to present at conferences and take on leadership positions, which further increased my professional development. I have enjoyed being an active association member and have enjoyed taking on leadership roles when possible.
When initially presented with the idea of joining professional associations, many of my professional and college clients feel they are too busy for another time commitment. Once they understand the benefits and long-term career impact, they are happy to make the time investment. So what are few professional association benefits?
Increased Industry Knowledge – We all can become complacent at times dealing with the same issues and confronting challenges in the same manner. It is beneficial to hear colleagues throughout the country speak about working through similar challenges with different perspectives and ideas. Additionally, there may be weekly email updates or quarterly publications which provide further insights. Being in the know about trends, legislative rulings, and emerging technologies always gives professionals an edge in their career.
A Broad Network – Many state or local chapters may be affiliated with a national association. This provides the opportunity to meet people locally and yet have access to national level professionals. I have experienced that many professionals who are involved in associations have a deeper commitment to their careers and to supporting others. Additionally, many associations may have extensive vendor relationships which adds another important networking channel.
College Student Membership Rate – Many professional associations offer a student price membership which is a tremendous value. Students have the opportunity to meet professionals in their desired field and learn important industry information. Many associations also have an online career center with job and internship postings.
Membership in a few key professional associations can greatly benefit one’s career. I have been involved with multiple associations for over twenty years and this is where some of my best professional relationships have been established. Since professionals are responsible for managing their own careers, associations can provide an important connected community that helps to bridge an ever-changing job economy and new business opportunities.