With the rise of the internet, social networks, and online education programs, is membership in professional associations still of value? Absolutely. Participating in a professional group brings many benefits you can’t get anywhere else: a sense of community, personal interaction with like-minded individuals, a way to participate and contribute in your industry.
Associations are evolving to meet the needs of their current members and to attract new members by developing new programs, products and membership options. Organizations are becoming more tech-friendly by offering mobile apps, responsive websites and a variety of online resources. Conferences are bringing in A-list keynote speakers and thousands of attendees for learning and socializing.
Given these developments, it’s encouraging to note that millennials are embracing associations. Membership is encouraged at colleges and universities, and is particularly advantageous for individuals just starting their careers. In fact, 74 percent of respondents under age 40 in Buzz Marketing Group’s “Professional Organizations Study 2015” say associations are useful.
Nothing replaces the experience and connections you make through involvement in an organization. Involvement is key, however: you need to attend meetings and events, engage with other members, go to annual conferences, volunteer to serve on a committee. It takes time, energy and financial outlay, but you’ll get out exponentially more than you put in. Many people find new jobs, new customers, partners, skills, ideas, contacts, friends and so on, through their associations. Meeting a person at an association event can completely change the trajectory of your career, and professional organizations are designed to bring people together in a setting that encourage the sharing ideas and the formation of personal connections.
Here are some great reasons to join a professional association:
Education: Whether its delivered in-person or online via seminar, training program, class or conference, educational resources are key value of association membership. In addition to formal training, many busy professionals rely on their associations to keep them informed on industry trends and issues through targeted newsletters and emails. Associations also facilitate learning indirectly through mentorship. Some associations have formal mentorship programs, but all provide opportunities to meet other professionals who might be open to this mutually beneficial relationship.
Certification: Associations administer professional credential programs like APICS’s own CSCP, CPIM, or CLTD. When you earn a professional designation, it demonstrates your level of expertise and commitment to your career, giving you lasting credibility and distinction in your profession.
Access to Resources: Association members gain access to proprietary tools, research and information not available to the public. For example, APICS affiliates are granted access to the SCOR framework and supply chain benchmarking tools. These firewalled resources can be tremendously valuable to both the individual seeking information, and to the employer that benefits from having access to such information.
Networking: Joining an organization makes it easy to meet and connect with like-minded professionals, peers, respected leaders and up-and-comers. You can attend conferences, local chapter meetings, awards ceremonies and other events in settings designed to help you develop new connections and grow your career. Attending a multi-day annual conference will leave you feeling knowledgeable, inspired and motivated. These interactions can also help expand your perspectives. Each time you attend an event—in person or virtually—you’re going to hear varying viewpoints and new approaches, along with best practices. Such diversity in thinking is invaluable.
Elevate your Status in the Industry: Serving on committees or the board of an organization will help you gain leadership and management skills, and can also elevate your profile. Becoming an active member of an association gives you an opportunity to use skills like public speaking, organization, problem solving, and networking in a safe environment while preparing you for additional responsibilities at work. Making impactful contributions within a professional association is an effective way to make a name for yourself throughout the industry.
Money: As in, more of it. Research conducted by the American Society of Association Executives finds that people who participate in associations earn more. Factors mentioned above — like access to education, resources and people — can contribute to this advantage. Professional designation or association membership can differentiate you and help you stand out over other job applicants or during salary negotiations.
Furthering the Industry: Don’t overlook the intrinsic value of your support, contribution and involvement in a professional association. Your membership helps drive growth and advancement in your field. You’re paving the way for new research, knowledge-sharing and the next generation of professionals. It’s a vitally important contribution.
Put some thought into what you want to achieve by joining an organization, research various groups to find the one which best meets your goals, then dive in to derive the most value from membership!