After being in a job search for a full-time job for over a year, I recently joined a professional association. I was advised by numerous people in the industry to join such an association, but I let the cost factor get in my way. Then, I received a part-time job in my desired industry, and I waited, believing that if I got hired full-time, my employer would pay for my membership. Finally, after months of waiting, and finding myself still in a state of under-employment, I decided to join an association, the Career Counselors’ Consortium Northeast. Imagine my surprise when I found out they had a student membership, half off the usual price!
I already attended two meetings, made wonderful connections, entered the mentoring program and learned a lot. I advise my students and alumni at Becker College to join associations, as well as my job seekers at the job club I direct once a week. There are many reasons to join an association, and here are just 10 of them. Don’t let the cost get in your way, as it will cost you more to be unemployed or underemployed longer.
- Jobs – Many professional associations assist their members with finding jobs, offer job listings, and share leads.
- Build your network – Creating a professional network is important, and joining associations helps you do that. By attending events, you will meet people in your industry, and have a chance to connect. These relationships will offer you an opportunity to support and help one another, and reach your professional goals. There are numerous events throughout the year, and you can even volunteer to become a committee member.
- Increase your industry knowledge – Many associations provide immense resources of industry information such as publications, case studies, and journal articles written by people in your field. Additionally, access to newsletters and industry magazines is usually a part of your membership privileges.
- Professional development – Many associations offer professional development via online webinars and workshops. You can also keep up-to-date on industry trends, best practices, and how to deal with issues in your field.
- Mentoring – One of the most important benefits of associations is the possibility of developing mentoring relationships, via either formal or informal programs. This is especially helpful to people considering a career transition, or younger professionals looking to learn from experienced mentors.
- Attend Conferences – Most associations hold annual regional conferences with industry speakers. Arrive early, pick up handouts and introduce yourself to presenters after their sessions. During lunch and dinner, sit next to someone you don’t know, to help build your connections and your network. Start light conversations with other members, and then bring up your job search. You are looking to gain information and increase your network. You can ask questions such as: Who are the major employers in the field? Based on my resume, in what areas do I need to improve? Do you know anyone else I might speak to about pursuing career opportunities in this field?
- Access to professional directories – Associations often publish directories of their members, which can be excellent sources for prospective job leads and building connections. Seek to connect with members, meeting them for coffee or conversing with them on Skype. Do more than just connect on LinkedIn. Having meaningful conversations can help build strong connections.
- Professional trends – Association membership will allow you to keep up-to-date on trends in the field through meetings, conferences, and guest speakers. Professional associations conduct research and provide statistical information, which will allow you to learn a lot about industry trends, and enable you to be seen as an industry thought leader.
- Build your resume – Association membership listing on your resume is an excellent way to show your commitment to your industry. Additionally, volunteering for a leadership position is a great way to build relevant resume content.
- Scholarships – For the college students and young adults, associations usually offer discounts or scholarships, so don’t let the cost deter you. Remember, every month you are unemployed or underemployed you are losing money, so association membership may well be worth the investment!
Please share with me your stories, experiences and successes with professional association…