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To Join or Not To Join: The Costs and Benefits of Professional Organizations

Mar 10, 2011

No matter what career you choose, chances are there's at least one relevant professional organization you can join. Often a nonprofit, professional organization is a collective of people who work in the same field. The goals of each group vary, but most are interested in advancing their respective industries. Read on to find out more about these organizations and how they can help your career.

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To Join or Not To Join?

Professional organizations exist for the purpose of helping further the goals and interests of the industry they represent, while also offering services and support for their members. Professional organizations are prolific - as evidenced by the more than 7,800 organizations listed in the National Trade and Professional Associations Directory.

Networking

Members of professional organizations can access a network of individuals invested in the future of their respective fields. If you have a question regarding your job that only others in your career would understand, you can turn to your professional organization. Membership also allows you to further expand your network at business-oriented conferences, which many organizations regularly host. Some organizations participate in community activities as well.

Having a network of professionals at your fingertips means having people you can turn to when seeking a new job. For a few employers, merely seeing a professional organization listed on a resume provides an edge in the hiring process - it's evidence of dedication to a career.

Stay Current

Professional groups are a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of your career field. Joining a professional organization can give you immediate access to current research data, resources and conferences, all of which can help you stay up to date. Many organizations also offer professional development classes that help members become certified or maintain required certification - sometimes at no cost. Another perk: Many groups offer access to an online library of documents or videos that members can use in their day-to-day work.

Students Get A Head Start

Many professional organizations offer discounted membership fees for students who've yet to enter the job market. Sometimes, these discounts can amount to well over half the typical cost of membership. Joining a professional organization while still a student can also open doors to scholarships, internships and employment opportunities. Networking with those already established in the career is a great way to find a mentor and potential employer.

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Is It Worth It?

If you're looking to get the most from your profession, investing time and money in an organization is probably a good call. However, anything that asks you to pay money now for potential benefits later should be regarded with scrutiny. If there is more than one organization for your career field, investigate your top choices carefully to make sure they actually benefit members who pay hard-earned money to take part.

Everyone has different needs, and it's possible that whatever membership benefits you enjoy may not be worth the annual dues. If you're tentative about your career, professional organizations can represent a commitment that takes more than it gives.

A good professional organization will keep you appraised of current topics in the field, allow you to meet like-minded people, and most importantly, help you be the best at what you do.


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