When people ask if there are benefits to joining a professional association, my immediate response is a resounding, “YES, let me count the ways”.
- Networking: Networking provides your own built in support group. I worked for a large corporation when I first joined NOARK, the local chapter affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the largest national Human Resource (HR) professional association. All the HR Professionals I knew were those with whom I worked. Therefore, I had limited exposure to diverse thoughts and practices within HR. Through my membership I became friends with HR professionals from a variety of industries. It was validating to see we shared some common best practices. It was enlightening to learn new methodologies. I experienced the benefit of mentoring from experienced professionals willing to share advice on resolving difficult issues. I discovered resources within our membership with which to benchmark efficient practices and processes. When faced with questions I was unable to answer, I knew I could call other members who would know the answers.
- Professional Growth and Development: Professionals must keep informed of industry trends to remain relevant in their field. Jam packed calendars, demanding workloads, and shrinking training/travel budgets often prevent professionals from leaving the office for conferences and seminars. Most professional organizations conduct regular monthly membership meetings featuring speakers who are subject matter experts in their industry. This allows members to continue their development in a time efficient, low cost manner. In addition, the development provided frequently satisfies a portion of continuing education requirements for those members holding certifications.
- Develop Leadership Skills: The business of a professional association is conducted by the membership. Members are elected or sometimes volunteer to hold positions of leadership. The leaders are responsible for planning, coordinating and conducting monthly meetings. There are committees responsible for communication with the community, generating membership, acting as treasuries, etc. The competencies required to lead a group of volunteers is different than that required to lead direct reports. The volunteers (committee members), after all, can’t be fired or forced to perform work. One learns to lead groups through collaboration and influence.
- Advocacy: Professional Associations often have an advocacy branch that serves to advance business concerns to local and national legislators. Business professionals are the subject matter experts in their specific fields. They know best the impact proposed laws and regulations pose to their business. As a member of an advocacy committee, the business professional can provide feedback to the legislators regarding the consequences of those proposed laws or regulations.
Professional Organizations provide all these things and more. So, build your network of professionals who are your support and even make new friends. Yes, join a professional association.