Wondering how to boost your career ROI? Become a joiner.
Professional associations—like the ones for law librarians, archivists, knowledge management specialists, and other professionals—are a target-rich environment for anyone trying to grow his or her career opportunities.
Why is joining an association (or several) such a great move for your career?
- Networking. When you join a national professional association, you often have the option to become part of the local professional chapter as well. The smart move is to become active in both. Engaging at the national level will provide you with an opportunity to meet individuals from across the country (and possibly around the globe), while being active in the local chapter will enable you to meet a great number of the local professionals – and potential colleagues – in your field.
- Brand- or reputation-building. Take a leadership role with the local chapter to practice and demonstrate this critical skill, and/or become a terrific volunteer or committee member at the national level to turbo-charge your brand visibility. This delivers two benefits: 1) it demonstrates to potential hiring managers that you see yourself as a professional who takes his or her ability to contribute seriously, and 2) it will impress your fellow volunteers and committee members with your reliability, commitment, and professionalism, which will make them much more willing to help you advance your career.
- Career insights. And speaking of your career, most professional associations provide substantial information for their members about items such as potential career paths, salary trends, issues in the profession, hiring statistics, and similar information. In addition, associations frequently have online discussion groups whose topics and responses will provide real-life insights into career options in your chosen field.
- Conferences. Attending professional conferences can help you see your potential career paths “in action” – what are the people like, what topics are being discussed, what areas most intrigue you, where can you see yourself contributing? If you can’t attend, then at least research the online program to see what the hot topics are – and where you may want to start growing your professional expertise. And if you are able to go, take business cards and connect with as many people as possible!
- Mentoring. Not every association has a formal mentoring program, but if you’re considering a specific organization, see if this is one of the benefits. If so, explore their program – a good mentor (or, preferably, mentors) can help you grow your career through wise counsel, connections, constructive criticism, and, when needed, moral support.
Max these benefits by doubling down
Two actions to max out your association membership: first, make sure you list your association membership in your LinkedIn profile to showcase the seriousness of your professional commitment. Second, join the LinkedIn group your association sponsors and become an active participant.