4 Reasons to Join a Professional Association
By Ashford University Staff
If you’re serious about your career, consider joining a professional association. Each industry has at least one group committed to career development. If you’re not familiar with the professional associations in your chosen industry, search online to see which organizations you can choose from.
For example, here are just a few prominent associations:
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management
- Association of American Educators
- Association for Talent Development
- National Association for Business Economics
- National Sheriffs’ Association
- National Society of Accountants
You don’t have to be a seasoned expert to join. In fact, you may find you get more out of your association at the very beginning of your career. Even if you haven’t graduated yet, it’s not too early to join.
What can such an organization do for you? Here are four ways you can use a professional association to give your career a boost.
Professional associations offer classes and workshops to teach the skills that are most relevant to people in that industry. A course might focus on using a particular technology or software. These topics are very specialized, so you might not find them offered at a university. They are typically led by an expert with years of experience in your field. And they can be very quick! It’s not uncommon to find a course that lasts only a few days. Taking these courses is a great way to add to your resume.
Professional associations host conferences around the country, and these conferences can be a great place to meet other professionals. Be sure to check whether your association has a local chapter. Your local chapter will hold more frequent meetings where you can more easily connect with professionals in your area. By networking and building relationships, you might hear about job openings and other opportunities.
Some associations offer a formal mentorship program, in which you’ll be matched with a mentor to guide you in a project for a limited time. This mentorship can provide a useful structure for developing yourself and getting your post-college career off to a good start. Even if there’s no formal mentor program, you can always reach out to more experienced people in your network for guidance and suggestions. Not sure who would make a good mentor? Check out who’s on the board of directors – those are people with proven track records who’ve demonstrated a commitment to your industry. You may be surprised how willing they are to help you!
Associations charge fees to cover their expenses, and those fees can seem expensive, especially if you’re looking for a job. Solution: try volunteering! For example, if you volunteer to work the registration for a conference, you could be allowed in to the conference without having to pay. If you don’t feel confident when it comes to networking, volunteering for an event can put you in a natural position where it’s easy to meet people. Volunteering your time is also a great way to show off your skills, and members of the board may notice. And volunteer experience always looks good on your resume.
These are just a few of the many reasons to join a professional association. Think of your professional association as a natural extension of your college education. And as you grow in your career, you may find new members approaching you for advice and mentoring. You never know who you’ll meet, or what new opportunities might appear.