|The Value of Professional Organizations
Given the number of responsibilities that you juggle on a daily basis, joining a professional organization may not be one of your top priorities. However, such thinking can cause you to miss out on the numerous benefits that membership to a professional organization offers. Whether you join an industry-specific group, a special-focus organization, or a neighborhood-based association, you'll make valuable professional contacts, gain access to a wealth of useful information, and enjoy some or all of the following benefits:
Exclusive online resources: The websites of most professional organizations have "members-only" sections that provide access to a variety of databases and message boards, as well as listserv subscriptions so that you can be notified via e-mail about upcoming events, open positions in the field, and special activities that may not be open to the general public. If your organization is on LinkedIn, join their group to receive additional updates and participate in discussions.
Networking opportunities: When you join a professional organization, you'll deepen existing professional relationships and make new contacts on a regular basis. Such networking goes beyond the exchange of business cards - as you attend periodic meetings, become active on a committee or take a prominent leadership role, you'll forge lasting ties with others who have common professional interests and similar industry concerns. These relationships will be a rich, ongoing source of inspiration and ideas.
Education: Many professional organizations offer their members the chance to update their knowledge of industry basics or acquire new skills through seminars, workshops, break-out sessions at conferences and online courses. Continuous professional development is what will ensure your growth in the field!
Free or discounted publications: Membership in many groups includes a free subscription to the organization's magazine. Some associations also offer their members free publications and discounts on CDs, journals, videos/DVDs and other materials.
Conferences and seminars: Members are often given priority registration for their organization's national convention and may receive discounts on conference fees or special rates on related expenses, such as hotel reservations and car rentals.
Dependable support system: Members of professional organizations can often take advantage of formal coaching or mentoring relationships with more experienced people in the field who provide guidance and useful insights. Even on an informal basis, such relationships can be a source of answers and solutions when you're facing a challenging situation in your work. At the very least, the feeling that you have a support network behind you can boost your confidence when problems arise.