At the beginning of any new career, many people wonder if joining professional organizations would be beneficial to their career advancement. Membership in some of these organizations is costly, so it's important to consider what you'd like to get out of joining one and then determine whether membership in a particular association will help you attain your goals. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will assist you in making that assessment:
Do you already have a large network of connections in your field?
One of the main benefits of joining professional organizations is the ability to network with different people in your field of work who may refer you to potential clients or share information about upcoming job openings. This is a very useful benefit if you're just starting out with a particular career in an entry level position. Connections forged through joining professional organizations often lead to gaining insider information about available promotions or higher paying positions. If you don't already have access to large network of associates in your industry, the type of connections gained by joining professional organizations is invaluable.
Is your field in high demand?
If you work in a high-demand industry, such as website design or computer programming, it may be likely that the field is saturated with a lot of new freshly trained professionals in that field. If this is the case, joining professional organizations can help you stand out from the crowd. People in other fields who may need the services that you offer are more likely to hire you after they've gotten to know you personally through regular interactions at professional meetings. Taking the time to showcase your knowledge and willingness to help others at association gatherings is a great way set yourself apart and prove that you'd be a valuable asset to any new client or company.
Do you have time in your schedule to commit to attending regular meetings?
Professional association benefits typically include various opportunities to network with other professionals at regular meetings and special events. Clearly, this benefit is most useful if you can actually attend the meetings on a regular basis. Assess whether or not your schedule allows for regular attendance. Missing too many meetings defeats the purpose of joining and may appear unprofessional to other members.
Do you want to improve your social and networking skills?
If attending networking or social events make you anxious, joining a professional association may be beneficial in that it often has smaller sub-groups where people of like minds can mingle. The general atmosphere of most professional associations is supportive and friendly because everyone is looking to improve their career prospects. Starting out in a small professional association or sub-group can be helpful in assuaging networking discomfort.
Professional association benefits can be well worth the cost of membership if you take the time to assess whether the particular organization you're interested in is right for your career goals. At worst, you can always resign your membership and forfeit your fee if it's not working out. In the best case scenario, joining professional organizations can be a great way to move a little more quickly up the career ladder.
Photo courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net