Professionals associations can offer a lot of value to their members -- as a vehicle to learn more about and/or make contributions to your chosen field, to network with other members or as a source out job opportunities posted by members for members. So think carefully about the association you join because some are more active than others, and the benefits do vary. Read on to learn more about associations and how they may be a helpful in starting or developing your career.
What Exactly is a Professional Association?
A Professional Association is a structured group of like-minded individuals who gather to pursue their common interests, exchange information, and network with each other, for personal and professional benefits.
There are professional associations for every career field, and some general associations that are focused on other criteria and accept members from all fields, such as the Rochester Women’s Network and Rochester Young Professionals.
Professional associations are an excellent resource for career exploration when you are starting out, and for networking as you grow in your new profession. They are also one of the most powerful networking and job search tools available. Student memberships in professional associations are often free, or at significantly reduced rates compared to professional memberships.
Professional associations serve a wide variety of purposes, including establishing and monitoring industry standards and professional codes of practice, promoting the profession in the community, producing professional and industry publications, and maintaining a professional library for members. One of the main goals of many professional associations is to promote the career advancement of their members. Many offer career development information, networking opportunities between members, conferences, and even exclusive job and internship listings.
Why Join a Professional Network?
Professional Associations are a powerful resource for job seekers. Through their various activities and services (meetings, conferences, publications, websites, etc.) professional associations provide information about career fields, job opportunities, and employers in the professions they serve. They can be particularly helpful if you need to create a network to help you conduct a long-distance job search.
As a resume builder, associations indicate your dedication to and strong interest in your field to potential employers, and can also ensure your resume will matched in a keyword search by a recruiter searching through an applicant database on a Web search engine.
By participating in the activities of professional associations, students/alumni can gain practical experience and meet professionals already working in the field. You can also:
- increase your knowledge of the profession and industry you are interested in, which will help you to decide whether you wish to pursue a career in this field
- increase your knowledge of companies and organizations and the career opportunities they offer
- improve your business etiquette and communication skills
- work for the association on projects and develop new skills
- receive assistance with job-seeking through workshops, seminars, site visits, employer functions, vacancy listings etc.
- learn about and apply for co-op placements and other job opportunities
- develop skills through participation in professional development activities
- socialize with fellow students who share similar interests and career goals
- network with prospective colleagues and employers
- remain up-to-date with developments in the field
- learn about day-to-day issues you will face in the workplace
How do I use Professional Associations in my Job Search?
- Association websites - check out the association website, if there is one. It can be a treasure trove of useful material: job listings, conferences, meeting and event calendars, member directories, news, emailed newsletters, etc.
- Meetings/events - if it is a national organization with a local chapter, or a local organization, go to a couple of meetings (don't stop at just one meeting!) to see who is there and what they do.
- Conferences/trade shows - check out the exhibitors to see who they are, what they do, what their new products and services might be, and, with luck, employment opportunities they may have.
- Member directories - think of them as catalogs of potential employers and/or potential coworkers. You can use these directories to network and conduct informational interviews with potential employment contacts.
- Committees - the best way to meet colleagues at other companies (where you may soon be working) is to join one of the association's committees. At a minimum, it will give you people with whom you can talk when you go to the next meeting. At best, it will give you visibility with everyone in the organization and the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise as well as establishing a good reputation.
How do I find a Professional Association?
There are professional associations available for every career field, and the Internet is a great starting place to find an association that matches your interests. You can do a general search for your field + professional associations, or use the general lists of professional associations below to find specific associations by category.
- Yahoo Directory of Professional Associations -http://dir.yahoo.com/business_and_economy/organizations/professional/
- Internet Public Library - http://www.ipl.org/div/aon/http://www.ipl.org/div/aon/
- Weddle’s Association Directory - http://www.weddles.com/associations/index.cfm
Check with your program coordinator in the Co-op and Career Services Office for the associations they recommend for your field of interest. We have also organized our "staff picks" on our Lists of Recommended Sites by program on our site-- so look them over!