Professional organizations abound; it’s likely that professional groups for your field exist at the local, state and national level. Belonging to a professional organization has slight drawbacks, including paying membership dues and fulfilling responsibilities such as voting or volunteering when you’re already busy with other career responsibilities. But the benefits of belonging to a professional organization far outweigh these small disadvantages.
Belonging to a professional organization helps establish legitimacy when you’re first starting out in the field; this is especially true for freelancers and independent contractors because you’re lacking the professional umbrella of a well-known company name or employer. Being a member of a professional organization carries a degree of respectability when applying for jobs or presenting credentials to potential clients.
Another benefit in belonging to a professional organization includes networking. Attending events or functions in a professional organization related to your field will help you get to know colleagues better, interact with competitors and build relationships with potential mentors. At events or online, you’ll be able to chat about current trends, innovations and upcoming trainings.
Professional organizations can provide steppingstones into additional career opportunities, especially when linked with networking. You may have access to the organization’s database of available jobs, or learn of jobs before they’re officially posted by talking with colleagues working for other companies. Assuming responsibilities within the professional organization can add points to your resume, making you more viable as a job candidate.
Professional organizations sometimes offer grants, scholarships or other resources to members. These financial, resource or mentorship awards can help you fund research projects, pay for additional training or pursue preferred projects related to your business or field. Listing your grant award or other recognition on resumes can also enhance your marketability.
Professional organizations sometimes sponsor trainings and workshops that can help you develop your career skills. More importantly, volunteering for various responsibilities within the group can provide informal training and experience, plus the opportunity to work closely with respected industry professionals.
Some people belong to professional organizations because of a dedication to advocacy within their field. Groups sometimes coalesce around legislation, social causes or scholarships for students wanting to enter the field. Working toward a common goal with professionals in your industry can be a rewarding way to give back.
Because professional organizations sometimes host luncheons, fundraisers or public speaker events, social interaction can be another membership benefit. You can make friends with professionals who share common interests or share engaging conversations with colleagues about your field. Always keep socializing professional; this isn’t the place to showcase your partying or gossip skills.
Belonging to a professional organization can be a rewarding experience, but joining multiple professional organizations can be a financial strain or somewhat stressful in keeping up with news and events. Some people may find they cannot participate in numerous professional organizations; hone your choices to a few groups -- or one group -- that hold special interest or value for your career before committing time and energy.
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.