The unsung heroes. The networkers extraordinaire. The fountains (and gatekeepers) of knowledge.
So what am I talking about? Professional associations.
This is how people react when I talk about the importance of associations. Disbelief, followed by a big yaaaawn, and a look as if I am talking about smelly socks.
But look around and see where the successful people in your industry are.
I bet that many have grown their careers as long-term, active members of distinct associations, contributing to their success through volunteering, mentoring, speaking or training. Like them, I would not be anywhere near as well-networked, qualified and effective without giving and receiving support from my associations. It’s not all about work either. I have met some of my very best colleagues, cum friends, through associations too.
Here are ten things I owe to my associations:
In a competitive and unpredictable labour market, your expertise is a key asset. You need to know whether your skills and knowledge are up to date, how you compare to your peers and whether you (and your employer) need to invest more in your professional development, so you can stay ahead of industry expectations.
It’s who you know and who knows you – and connecting with like-minded, inspiring and influential colleagues is easy enough through associations. If you enjoy meeting people face to face, attend local, regional and national meetings. If you haven’t got time or are in the wrong location, engage online. You’ll be surprised how diverse, stimulating and motivated an association’s membership base can be.
3. Accessing Industry Knowledge
Professional associations are the guardians of the knowledge base in diverse industries. Some even have regulatory and accreditation powers. Accessing your industry’s knowledge is simple through online and offline publications, reports, google hangouts and newsletters.
4. Developing Skills and Expertise
From mentoring to chairing meetings, boardroom experience to organising conferences, speaking to running webinars – associations offer so many opportunities to develop highly marketable skills. If you don’t get the chance to get this kind of experience at work, associations offer a great alternative. And you never know who notices your sterling efforts!
5. Gaining Visibility
Associations can always do with a pair of hands. Do a great job, and suddenly you might find yourself being offered tasks which give you exposure to industry thought leaders, top journalists, government ministers or a spot for an article in your widely circulated membership magazine.
6. Enhancing Your CV
We all respect people who go the extra mile, volunteer and give something back to their communities. So do recruiters and hiring managers. I can’t think of anyone who gives freely to their professional community just because it looks good on their CV and LinkedIn profile. But it does make you more marketable. And you never know what can happen as a result.
7. Overcoming Isolation
If you are an external consultant or work in a small organisation – chances are you feel a bit isolated at stages without colleagues from your particular profession. Who can you have a chat with or get a second opinion from? Colleagues in associations can become those trusted peers. Okay, you can’t meet them down the corridor or at the water cooler. But you can pick up the phone and connect beyond your organisation. That’s almost as good.
8. Spotting and Creating Opportunities
All this talk about ‘hidden’ jobs – but where do you find these opportunities? Recruiters and hiring managers seek talent in places where the talent is, so of course they (also) go to associations. Don’t underestimate the power of referrals through association members and representatives.
9. Paying It Forward
Hand on heart – how much did you learn from more experienced professionals when you started out? Maybe they were part of an association, maybe they were senior colleagues. In any case, isn’t it time to return that favour and pass your wisdom onto the next generation of professionals? There is something magic about giving back – it’s good for your mentee, it’s good for your profession, and it’s good for your soul.
10. Fun and Friendship
Chances are, you meet remarkable people through associations. The ones who make you smile, encourage you to do your best, connect at a deeper level and enrich your life. And some of them become trusted colleagues and lifelong friends. Now that in itself strikes me as a very good reason to join an association and play a part.
So this is it.
My belief that active participation in an association is a good thing.
Good for you. Good for your career. Good for your profession.
Which reasons do you find most appealing?
Have I enticed you to give it a go?
And if you already are an active member – what do you get out of it?
Leave your comments below, and let’s have an interesting conversation.