Finding the Professional Organization for You
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Professional organizations serve college students looking to network before entering the professional world, recent college grads seeking some early-career leverage and seasoned professionals who want to give their careers a boost. These associations work to unite and inform people who work in the same occupation or field, often offering continuing education opportunities and hosting networking events.
Professional organizations help their members keep current on industry trends, legislative rulings and advances in technology. Professionals across all industries at all stages of their careers should consider joining an association to find mentors, connect with their peers and share their challenges and successes.
Professional Development Benefits
Members of professional organizations benefit most notably from professional development opportunities, according to The Muse. These associations are known to host seminars, speaker sessions and professional events to keep their members up-to-date on the newest theories and ideas in their industry. Beyond attending these events to hear experts speak, members who hold particular expertise on a topic might consider speaking or presenting at one of these events to help share their ideas and establish themselves as an authority in their field.
Professional organizations often put out publications, as well, such as journals and blogs. These give members another platform on which to demonstrate their professional expertise.
Networking and Professional Support
Professionals who join associations gain access to exclusive networking opportunities, such as at meetings and on committees, according to EDUCBA. Most associations hold an annual conference to host speakers and present new ideas, and these events also serve as excellent opportunities for like-minded professionals to connect with each other and exchange ideas.
Health care recruiter Andrea Clement Santiago wrote in VerywellHealth that "networking with professionals outside your place of employment can give you a broader perspective on the market."
"Listening to the experiences of others may even leave you feeling energized and refreshed with the feeling you are not alone in the fight," Santiago wrote.
These connections also work to inform association members on open positions in their field, create opportunities to meet prospective employers and make professional contacts at prospective places of employment.
Exclusive Access to Resources
Most professional organizations include a "members only" section on their website, through which members can access message boards and databases that aren't available to nonmembers. Association members usually receive exclusive notifications about upcoming events, activities and opportunities that aren't open to the general audience. These events may work to inform attendees on career advancement, running a business or boosting technical expertise.
Professional groups often offer subscriptions to their magazines, newsletters and other publications to members at discounted rates. As an association member, you might score free copies or discounts on journals or tutorials, or special deals on conference expenses and related costs. Some associations even extend capital to members who are working to grow their businesses.
Most professional organizations feature a relatively low barrier for entry – unless they require members to have passed certain exams or gained particular certification or licensure. In most cases, however, membership just requires a signup and a commitment to paying dues, which vary significantly between organizations. Local and regional groups tend to charge lower membership rates than national associations.
The best way to find a professional association that suits you is to browse LinkedIn. Glance at the profiles of leaders in your professional field to see if they hold membership with any organizations, and look into those groups to see what they require of and offer to their members. If industry-specific bodies don't particularly appeal to you, consider a special focus group, such as one for small business owners or women entrepreneurs.
Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, California, and she holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.