Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Four Reasons Why You Should Immediately Join a Professional Organization

Picture in your mind two side-by-side resumes of recent college graduates. Each possesses the same type of degree from comparable universities. They have similar internship experiences and both lack “real-world working experience.” The only difference between the two is that the one on the right is a member of a professional organization, a (typically) not-for-profit group formed around a particular profession that furthers the interests and development of its members and of the profession itself. Professional organizations-also called professional associations, professional bodies, professional societies, or trade groups-exist for nearly any profession you can think of, from clowns to bookbinders. The difference between involvement in a professional organization and none could be the difference between obtaining a position quickly after graduation and floundering for months afterward. Read on to learn why.

On the cheap: Joining a professional organization as a student is typically cheaper-much cheaper-than to join as a professional already working in the field. For example, a student membership in the Society of Human Resource Professionals is a mere $35.00 compared with $180.00 for a full-time professional. That’s a savings of over 80%! The leadership of professional organizations understands that college students have limited-if any-income and want to substantially decrease the barriers to joining. Take advantage of this while you are still able.

Get connected: From the moment you hit the “submit” button to conclude your organization membership you will have instant access to a network of professionals in your field. Make the most of this by contacting some nearby members and scheduling an informational interview to learn from them and grow your personal network.

Become involved: As you have probably surmised by now, joining a professional organization is good, but becoming involved is better. How do you become involved? Email someone in a leadership position in the association and ask him or her how you can help. It doesn’t matter who; you are new to the organization and that person will help you navigate the organizational hierarchy. There are numerous ways for you to get involved in a professional organization, from sitting on committees to volunteering at events like conferences or symposiums. Since volunteers run most professional organizations, your initiative and involvement will be welcomed and rewarded.

Educate thyself: Finally, professional organizations provide ongoing education and training opportunities to help its members stay current in the field. Utilize these resources to get the most out of your membership and to make yourself a more well-informed professional.

Professional organizations are a small investment for enormous professional rewards, provided that you use them to grow your network, get involved, and continue your education. Stop hesitating and join one today.

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