By India Purnell, Faculty Assoc., School Of Social Work
Professional organizations are much more than a section on your resume; they are sometimes a direct pipeline to resources, individuals, and guidance within the industries that you have an interest in.
Where to find them
It can be as easy as a quick “(insert industry/profession) Professional Organization” Google search, or you can get some guidance from an academic source in your field. Here is a list of various professional organizations from Industries A- Z:
Resource- List of Professional Organizations: https://jobstars.com/professional-associations-organizations/
There are four different types of professional organizations:
Designation Granting Associations
Professional Regulatory Bodies
To determine which type would be best for you, check out this publication from Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)
How to Engage
So now that you have found an organization, what do you do next?
Two things; get involved and stay active!
It is very easy to join these organizations, but for some it is much harder to make a splash as a small fish in a big pond when you are afraid to dip your toe in the water (disclaimer- I know fish do not have toes, but I was on a roll... so just roll with it)!
Find an area of interest that the organization has and connect with the leader of that division. Seek out events and activities to take part in that you enjoy while also being in a space with other like-minded professionals.
What are the benefits?
Intrinsic Value- There are always opportunities to embed yourself in your industry, and taking an active role in a professional organization is a great way to start! Whether volunteering for conferences or taking part in meetings, a great way to stand out is to jump right in and do the work to help your industry reach new heights.
Jobs- Associations are a great resource for identifying potential job opportunities as well as more information about certain career paths that are of interest to you.
Networking- Professional Associations provide amazing networking opportunities, allowing individuals to engage and connect with their peers, mentors, and other industry leaders, sometimes all in the same room!
Education- Every industry is constantly pursuing the best practices for their specific areas, and professional organizations help emerging industry participants keep their ear to the ground and remain aware of opportunities, research, and up-to-date information about their field of interest.
A helpful hint that I like to share is to also look into joining organizations with a related interest to your direct industry. For example, if one were looking into becoming a supply chain manager for the food industry, it may serve a good purpose to be in professional organizations in both business and food. The same could be said for marketing and fashion, or social work and psychology.
The best part is that you don't have to wait to graduate, and it is never too late to join. So go out there and make a splash!