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Joining and participating in a professional organization is often encouraged for graduating students and for professionals looking for advancement opportunities. For students entering the workforce, professional organizations provide an easy way to network and to learn about different aspects of the field. In addition, membership shows high level of commitment and interest in the field, adding to the strength of a resume or portfolio. Established professionals looking for advancement opportunities can gain valuable leadership skills by actively participating on professional boards, potentially enhancing the chance of promotion. If you are looking for a professional organization, there are several questions to consider in order to find a match to your particular needs. The following post will provide a few suggestions to consider to ensure the best possible choice.
Do your homework
Before joining an organization, know what you want out of the experience; is your goal to network and volunteer, or do you also want opportunities for professional development training? Once you’ve determined your goals, you can better match them to an organization’s mission. Then, check out websites and social media. Learn what the organizations do, what types of professionals they attract, and how they “live” their mission. If possible, reach out to a few current members to see what their experience has been.
Attend a meeting
Perhaps the next step to joining a professional organization, after your preliminary research, is attending a board meeting. Many organizations have open meetings and welcome nonmember participation. By attending a few meetings, you can assess if their website and social media accurately represents what they are accomplishing, as well as gain a better idea the inner workings of the board.
Join a committee
If you are still unsure about committing to an organization, try joining a committee. Many organizations have regularly scheduled events and are always looking for volunteers to help plan and host. By joining a committee, you will begin to meet more members, build relationships, and increase your professional networks. This is a great “low commitment” way to see if the organization would be a good fit.
At-Large board member
Once you decide you are ready to join and would like to get more involved, consider becoming an “at-large” board member. At-large positions have flexible responsibilities and typically do a little of everything, thus providing a great overview of the organization. This is an ideal position for someone looking to gain leadership experience.
Join with a friend
Joining a professional organization with a friend, perhaps a classmate or colleague, is a perfect way benefit from being part of an organization without feeling like the “new kid on the block.” Professional organizations are always looking to increase their membership, so it is a win-win for all involved!