Your Guide to Navigating Professional Associations
I first learned about professional associations while a student in college. From day one of my college career in 2006, my professors took time to instill in my fellow classmates and I the value of being involved in such organizations. In 2009, my journalism professor took a group of us to the Kentucky Press Association winter conference held in Louisville, Kentucky. That experience and the many more that followed gave me a taste of what being involved in a professional association was all about. Since then, I’ve become involved with several of these organizations.
Here are a few tips that have helped me in navigating my way through the herd.
- Choose associations in your field of work: Almost every occupation has professional organizations. Do some research and find ones in your field, and even the ones in your city.
- But don’t forget about the others: Some associations encompass any type of work, such as Business and Professional Women, of which I am a member of locally in my city. In these organizations, its especially nice to have members if various career backgrounds, as they can lend their ideas and expertise.
- Look as the cost and benefits: Unfortunately, most professional groups will charge a membership fee, usually annually. I’ve paid several memberships dues but I have a limit. Some organizations charge ridiculous membership fees that reach into the thousands. That’s just insane. There are some associations like these that I desire to join, but just refuse to pay an extreme membership fee. So instead, I follow them on social media. But there are some that charge as little as $10 to $25, which is more in price range. (Don’t call me cheap! I’m on a budget.) No matter how these professional organizations may seem to offer, don’t go broke trying to join them. It’s just not worth it.
- You also want to look over what membership benefits are offered before signing up: Does the organization provide professional development opportunities such as seminars with key speakers and networking and social events? Is there a monthly newsletter? Does it send out a list of current job offers in its particular line of work? Seminars are huge to me, since I am all about keeping up with modern technology, trends and techniques. But networking is even more important than that. What kind of professional association doesn’t provide networking opportunities? One that will not have me as a member! If you utilize it, networking is an essential part of anyone’s career, and therefore, should be a part of every professional organization.
Not sure if you’re ready to take the plunge? Many associations let guests sit in on meetings, just to get a feel for what the organization stands for. Start there and maybe attend with a friend who’s already a member, and it will help you decide which one suits you.