A 2015 survey by Buzz Marketing found that recent college graduates want professional organizations that give them opportunities to grow their social capitol, provide continuing education, job connections and have opportunities to volunteer. About 25% of the respondents in the survey said professional organizations are “old school.”
Here’s how professional associations like the American Society for Quality, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the International Association of Business Communicators are serving their members and can help you advance your career.
Professional Associations can be found within every type of industry. They typically include people united by common professional interests who work together on goals and objectives pertinent to their industry or to a mission and vision that may move outside of the industry but require their professional expertise. There usually is a yearly membership fee to join and the benefits can be broken down into three areas: Training and Education, Networking and Mentoring, Employment Assistance and in some cases community outreach and social change opportunities.
Access to Training and Education
Professional Associations often house the latest information on research, trends, best practices, and current events happening within a particular industry. Their websites, online libraries, trainings, education programs and conferences, provide industry best practices. Typically, organizations use a newsletter, blog, webinar or podcast to communicate changes in policy, and procedures to communicate with members.
Some Professional Associations offer certifications as well. For example, the Association of Energy Engineers offers a certification in energy procurement and the American Society of Association Executives offers The Certified Association Executive Program. This certification is designed to “elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and designate association professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to manage an association in today’s challenging environment.” If you’re looking for informal professional development opportunities, or more structured ones, joining a Professional Association might be an option.
Access to Networking and Mentoring
Technology has facilitated a change in the structure of the workday and the culture of the business environment. According to a Gallup poll taken in 2015, telecommuting in the U.S. has climbed to 37%, with the average worker telecommuting two days per month. The freedom to work from home, the neighborhood coffee shop, or even the beach, is now a cultural norm. The down-side is that now many workers conduct their daily tasks in isolation because there are less opportunities to carpool, drop in on someone in their office, or engage with co-workers around a water cooler.
One of the advantages to joining a Professional Association is the access to others performing similar work. Sometimes there are formal gatherings like conferences or smaller, more localized informal gatherings. Having access to those doing similar work, and experiencing similar professional challenges, is a great way to collaborate, network, and avoid some of the pitfalls of working in isolation.
Additionally, many studies show the personal and professional advantages of mentoring as a result of membership in a professional association. Mentors share their knowledge about the industry and the wealth of experience. They help their mentee set and achieve career goals, navigate their way through difficult situations and conflicts, and can grow to be trusted friends and confidantes. Joining a Professional Association is a great way to either mentor or be mentored. Mentor and mentee relationships are mutually beneficial and can be the foundation upon which successful careers are built.
Access to Jobs
Being a part of a Professional Association looks great on a resume and your LinkedIn profile because it demonstrates interest and dedication to your field. In addition to the value membership adds to your resume, many Professional Associations have job listings or job fairs. Some Professional Associations can even help with skill development like resume writing and tips for interviewing.
There are many advantages to becoming a member of a Professional Association but first deciding your goals and what you hope to get from your membership is an important first step.