Should You Join a Professional Organization?
If you want to meet people in your profession, people with connections, people you can bounce ideas off of about your profession, you should join a professional organization. Professional membership organizations are great places to network. Many national professional organizations have local chapters where you can meet with others in your industry. Often the local chapters host lectures and events that are directly related to your profession.
“I belong to the Association of Avian Trainers and Educators,” says Rebecca K. O'Connor. “I will write the occasional article for their newsletter. I also belong to World Parrot Trust and the American Federation of Aviculture. Speaking at various events and blogging for World Parrot Trust allows me to meet people and interact with folks that might hire me to come out to their zoo, or more frequently to come speak or do a workshop at their parrot club.”
Professional organizations such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums offer their members a bounty of services, from continuing education workshops to networking events and annual conferences. One of the best reasons to join a professional organization is to meet people who can help you advance in your career. Another benefit is the online chat rooms. Online membership boards are great ways to get answers to questions. People in this, and other industries, like helping their peers. If you have a question about treating an animal, you can post it online. Answers and discussions are often immediate.
This is an especially good service for people who are self-employed. If you run a veterinary clinic or work as a consultant out of a home office, chances are you work alone. In that case especially, having a network of experts is a definite business boon.
Some professional organizations have student memberships. Annual fees for students are a bit less than those paid by working members. The advantage to being a student member is that you can learn about numerous programs, and you can meet people in your profession. You can also participate in workshops and conferences. A few of these organizations also have mentoring programs.
To get the most out of your professional organization, it pays to get involved. Joining a committee, writing for the organization's newsletter, or running for office puts you in the spotlight. It's important to be an active member. Yes, you can join and just read the newsletter, but you won't meet colleagues that way.
By actively participating, even if it is only one day a month or a few hours each week, you will get noticed. By drawing positive attention to yourself, you will build credibility for yourself and for your business. By making yourself visible in your field, you will open yourself up to new opportunities to learn about your industry, and when job opportunities arise, your name will be in people's minds.