Cindy Stephens,Stephens International Recruiting, Inc.
In every profession, there are opportunities to join specialized organizations or associations to advance your career through professional development and networking to learn about industry trends, utilize career resources and hear first job openings.
We believe joining a professional association or organization is one of the best things you can do for your career. No matter what your career field is, you want to remain relevant and be known as a person who is “connected” in your career field. Of course, there are numerous ways to accomplish this, such as professional trade journals and networking with your peers. However, the best way to draw on all of the resources possible is to join a professional association.
Too often, joining an association is a low priority, whether it is because of the daily responsibilities that a person is managing or because a person feels they just do not have time for any more commitments. However, by not joining, a person may miss out on the many benefits that a membership in a professional association offers. There are many associations with a local chapter or national trade organization where you will make valuable professional contacts, and have access to a wealth of useful information and resources. Here are some of the many benefits of a professional association membership:
Professional Development and Education
Professional development might be the most obvious because it is one of the most important. Many associations offer members the opportunity to update their knowledge or acquire new skills through seminars, workshops, and conferences. Many also offer courses and online training to keep members up-to-date on the latest industry trends. Joining a professional organization enhances and opens doors for educational opportunities through professional development conferences with industry-related trade shows and facilitated networking opportunities. These training opportunities put you one step ahead of the competition.
Develop Leadership Skills
Professional associations also give you an opportunity to develop or improve your skills as a leader. This is important not only for your personal development, but for your progression within your firm. You can develop or improve these skills by speaking at industry events, or by answering questions or contributing content to the group’s newsletter or discussion forums. By establishing yourself as a trusted and respected addition to the group of industry leaders, you become a stronger leader in your field that will help you achieve your professional goals.
Networking and Socializing
There are endless networking opportunities in professional organizations. Numerous events are sponsored by many associations throughout the year that allow you to connect with your peers where you can share ideas, ask for advice, volunteer to be a speaker or become a member of a committee. You also have opportunities to learn about “best practices” or new ideas, hear about key achievers in your field and brainstorm with others who are looking to share and learn new information. Another benefit of enhancing your network is that you may find a mentor to help you with your professional needs, or you can become a mentor. Participating in forums, chat groups or discussion boards sponsored by the association is a great way to grow your network and enhance your professional skills. Networking is also a great way to meet new people and build a long-lasting network of friends who share common professional interests.
Your membership privileges usually include trade journaals, magazines, and newsletter access which provides a wealth of information on the latest industry trends, equipment updates and news. Most associations also provide access to unlimited resource information such as articles, books, white papers, case studies, updates from certification commissions and other critical organizations. This information is vital to keep you up-to-date and relevant throughout your career.
Another important reason to consider membership to a professional association is to take advantage of its seminars, training, certification classes and resources. Often these classes can be done through web-based training, podcasts and training CDs.
Job Opportunities and Career Resources
Associations often have job listings available to their members. It is a great way to find targeted job postings for your area. Additionally, many associations have career resources available such as tips on effective resumes or cover letters, job search strategies and negotiating techniques. Don’t forget, listing your association membership on your resume is impressive to current and future employers as it shows that you are dedicated to your career and connected in your professional career field.
Professional associations support many community fundraising initiatives, whether it is a food drive or a fun run for a local charity. Volunteer and enjoy representing your association while supporting a great local charity. Bring the family and make a day of it.
Employers Benefit, Too
Professional memberships are important for the employer and there are quite a few reasons why. Most employers have a professional development plan with company-paid benefits for training, conferences and continuing education. Investing in employees’ continued professional development improves morale and the company’s bottom line. Through these efforts, employees become more competent, capable and confident in themselves and their work. In turn, performance improves and productivity increases. These company-paid benefits demonstrate a commitment to employees and to their professional development. It fosters a culture of the company investing and supporting employees, motivating staff through achievement and recognition. This often leads to advancement within the organization. Increased employee job satisfaction results in reduced turnover; therefore, positively effecting retention. The word soon gets out, building a positive reputation that this is an employer who cares about its employees and strives to employ only the best. The company is then recognized as a great company to work for and the organization soon attracts better candidates.
Whether you are looking for professional development, learning about job opportunities, gaining access to current technical information or just meeting new people, joining a professional association is a step in the right direction!
Being a member of a professional association is beneficial for your professional development and the future of your career. In today’s economy, more than ever, you should show your commitment to your future. Your dedication for professional development and your desire to remain up-to-date with industry trends can be demonstrated through membership in a professional association or organization.
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