Associations vary as much as the industries they represent. Most provide resources for their members, including networking events, education, industry research, publications, professional services, and perhaps job listings. These events may be face-to-face, which is best for networking purposes; online events are also common, as are webinars. The opportunity? To interact with numerous professionals in a given field.
Some associations also offer certifications. For example, The Society for Human Resource Management provides PHR “Professional in Human Resources” certification; SPHR “Senior Professional in Human Resources,” and also Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) designation. The benefit of certification is to establish and provide standards, and even recognition, for those who have achieved it.
Want to work in operations management, inventory control, materials management? Join APICS (American Production and Inventory Control), and work toward the certifications that they offer.
These are but two examples of the hundreds of opportunities for obtaining certifications through a professional organization. A certification will not only add to your professionalism, it may also enhance your presentation to the job market by strengthening your résumé.
Interested in supply chain management? Consider the Council for Supply Chain Management, or the Institute for Supply Management. What about joining the International Society for Six Sigma Professionals. Are you a marketing professional? How about the American Marketing Association?
Continued on-going career development: Often overlooked, continuing activity in a professional organization or association will provide tremendous opportunities for continuous career development. Why? Consider the following reasons
It will help you expand and enhance your professional network. Associations sponsor numerous events throughout the year to assist you in connecting with other professionals. You can share ideas, ask for advice, volunteer to be a speaker. Joining an organization or association that coordinates with your career goal is one of the greatest opportunities to develop relationships, and even friendships, in your chosen field. If you consciously groom these networking contacts, they can last for your entire professional career.
Professional organizations invariably have one, or several, speakers at each event. Educationally, these speakers will keep you current with all the developments in your chosen field. They may teach you the very latest concepts on the horizon in your career. They keep you updated on the latest trends in your field of work.
Many organizations and associations have a “job bank” or listing of jobs that are available to members only.
Joining an organization will let you know what laws affect you and your profession, and also what is being considered which may have an impact on your work, and what you can do to influence legislation in your chosen profession and field of work.
It will aid the development of your social skills. Let’s face it, some of us need to develop our social skills. We need to improve how we interact with others, either individually or in a group setting. This leads us to our next important point.
Leadership development or enhancement: Industry organizations and associations keep the ball rolling by using volunteers. So what should you do? Volunteer. Join a Committee, volunteer to lead and manage the committee. For example, if you are on the seminar committee, and the committee chairman asks for someone to introduce the speaker at an upcoming event – be a leader. Volunteer for the assignment. It takes 90 seconds to introduce someone, yet everyone in the room sees you. It’s great personal marketing.
You’ll develop your public speaking abilities. You are given opportunities to speak, to lead discussions, to ask questions, and most importantly to stand in front of others and speak.
Expand your organizational and management skills. If you are on the executive board, you may have the opportunity to see how the entire organization works. You may learn how finances work, how to market an event, how to manage and to work as a team, how to organize, what challenges senior-level managers need to be aware of, among many other benefits.
Joining an organization or association also expands your personal friendships, and have some fun. Many of the best friendships you develop for a lifetime may come through the organizations in which you are active. The social activities are fun, enjoyable, and of course are a fabulous source for developing friendships and professional contacts.
Organizations and associations may be international, national, state and local in nature. It is best for you to get active in your local chapter. If there is not one, consider taking charge and developing one. You will be the leader, and the recognition and contacts that you would develop would be invaluable.
Self-Marketing Opportunities: if your organization has a monthly or quarterly newsletter, volunteer to write an article for the newsletter. Be a greeter at the door. Get on a committee and get active in the committee. Develop a PowerPoint presentation that you present to the membership. Do whatever you can to market yourself.
How do you find these organizations and associations? Try using Google to search for an association. Simply enter “professional association” (and your field or job) and search. The “Yahoo Directory of Professional Business Organizations” from Yahoo is helpful, and also Weedle’s Association Directory is a good choice as well.
There are literally thousands of professional organizations. If you are less interested in joining a professional business organization, and more interested in developing business contacts (if you are a salesperson for example), join your local Chamber of Commerce. Almost every town and city of any size has a Chamber. It is a great way to meet local business leaders, and develop a wealth of contacts in the local business community.