After graduation, you’re probably looking at ways to save money, not spend it. So you might consider foregoing your professional organization membership or forfeiting the idea of joining one in the first place. Joining a professional organization, however, is a smart investment to advance your career.
Knowledge is power
Although a major accomplishment, a degree is just one part of your educational journey. Learning never stops. As a member of a professional organization, you will have access to the latest information, original research, and in some cases, unique educational resources like webinars and newsletters, according to U.S. News & World Report staff writer Rebecca Koenig. These resources will help you keep your skills sharp and differentiate you from the crowd.
Mentoring programs are also available through professional organizations, which help connect senior scholars with junior scholars, says Claire Kamp Dush, associate professor of Human Sciences and Sociology at The Ohio State University.
“Professional organizations, particularly through their meetings, can spark new research ideas. Consuming the latest research at conferences can help you identify exciting trends coming in the field before they even appear in the journal,” she adds.
Connect with like-minded professionals
Membership lists and member profiles along with in-person meetings and annual conferences create valuable networking opportunities.
“Making informal connections at conference happy hours and more formal ties during workshops and education sessions can help people learn about job openings and ultimately secure offers,” according to Koenig.
Apply to scholarships and grants
Winning an award or earning a scholarship, fellowship or grant are great catalysts for your career and professional organizations often have a long list of options.
“Fellowships can offer you time to focus on your research, grants can help fund your research, scholarships can help you cover the costs of attending a conference or help you manage the experience of graduate school, and awards can get you recognition,” according to Kamp Dush.
Take the lead
The size of professional organizations lends itself to a complex structure, often populated by panels, boards and committees. As a member, you have access not only to the information provided by these entities, but also the chance to serve. Participating on a panel or serving as a committee member will connect you closely to other members and allow you to have a real impact on the organization. Plus, Kamp Dush notes that it can help you develop or strengthen your leadership skills, gain a better understanding of how the organization works, and reveal job opportunities.
Depending on your career field, you might have your pick of professional organizations. Since committing to an organization can be costly, Koenig advises that you be sure to research each one.
“It might benefit some workers to join more than one association, depending on their job functions and industry,” she adds.
The benefits of joining a professional organization extend throughout your professional life. In the beginning, you can connect with individuals who inspire you. As you gain more experience in your career, you can learn about new projects and opportunities to get you to the next level. When you reach the top, you can serve as a mentor.