4 Big Career Benefits of Joining Professional Organizations

I’m a big believer in professional organizations as one of the best ways to build your network. I can’t remember when I haven’t been involved in one. From the early days of my career when I was a member of Women in Communications to my days in the Bay Area when I was first a member, then president, of our IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) chapter, to today when I serve on the board of two organizations, our Columbus AMA chapter and my chamber, professional organizations have always been a big part of my working life.

Being an active part of professional organizations does a few things for you:

  • Helps you stay current on knowledge in your industry
  • Helps you gain experience in an area you may want to explore through volunteering
  • Adds credibility—being able to say “I’m on the board” or “I’m an active volunteer in this group” can help position you as an expert

And maybe most importantly:

  • Helps you meet and connect with others for referrals and recommendations when you’re looking for your next opportunity

To those who say, “But I don’t have the time,” remember that, when you’re looking for your next job opportunity, if you don’t build your network and expertise now, you may not have much to fall back on when the time comes. Invest the time before you need the contacts. Believe this—it’s always better to have the network in place so that when you need it, it’s there.

And don’t just simply join and attend maybe one event. In fact, it’s a good idea to make a point of going to a couple of events before you join to make sure the organization is a good fit. Do you feel comfortable when you walk into the room? Are attendees welcoming and friendly? If you feel at home, you’re more likely to stay engaged.

Once you’ve found an organization that fits your style and interests, join and throw yourself into it. Volunteer right away to get involved in something that either you’d like to do or perhaps something you need more experience doing. Did you know volunteering is a great way to grow your skill set? It’s true. What better way to gain experience in an area that’s newer to you than through volunteering? Skills gained this way still belong on your resume and LinkedIn profile. And depending on the task, you can also grow your network this way. Always treat your volunteer gigs with the same professionalism with which you treat your client projects. This will earn you the reputation of being someone they’d remember to refer business to when the opportunity arises.

So, if you’re looking to expand your knowledge, gain experience, boost your credibility and build your network, try getting involved in a professional organization. Like me, once you start, you may find yourself hooked.

By Michelle Garrett, Garrett Public Relations

(A version of this was previously published on Freelancers Union.)

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