People Like Us – Joining a Professional Organization

You graduated. You may even have graduated twice or three times to get the training you need. And now you are a professional. It says so right on your wall.But is it worth to be double in major http://degreesanddebt.com/2014/01/30/it-worth-it-double-major/ .But a diploma from no matter how fine a school does not define your professionalism. How you work; how satisfied your clients are; whether you keep up on the latest developments in your field; your ethics; all these factors and more beside are your professional criteria. That’s a lot to keep track of. You may need some help.

Getting In

Enter the professional organization. There are many. Which one is right for you? Say you’re an architect and you want to join the American Institute of Architects. First Question: Do you qualify? There several levels of membership from professional to intern to professor. Which, if any, suits you?

Next question: How much does it cost? Can you afford it? Do they offer any special rates? If the dues do stretch your finances a little thin, would it be worth it?

Which leads to: What services do they offer? There may be an exclusive Web site with private information as to jobs and trends in the industry; continuing education courses; special helps for those trying to establish themselves; and of course, meetings, conferences and seminars that offer a chance to network with fellow architects from all over the country.

But what if you are an African-American? There is certainly no color bar to American Institute of Architects, but there is a National Organization of Minority Architects. Can you afford both? If not, which offers most to a person in your situation?

And then there are associations that have only a tangential relationship to the field. The American Cultural Resources Association is concerned with the relationship of architecture and other disciplines to history and culture. Interesting, but not appropriate to a newly minted architect.

People Like Us - Joining a Professional Organization

Narrower May Be Smarter

If your business has a narrower focus, there are places for the specific as well as the general. If you majored in fashion and work only for a certain clientele you might join the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers. If you supervise the insurance industry for your state The National Association of Insurance Commissioners may be for you.

If you work in particular branch of a field and want something that is specific to your needs, you can have it. In education these are pre-school, elementary and high school teachers, as well as special education, adult education and administration. Each has its own group as do acoustical, chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum and mining and drilling engineers.

Weeding Out

Where can you find a society that meets your needs? Start with people in the know; professors, coworkers, supervisors, working friends and relatives. Ask them what their affiliation is and how they like it. Is membership primarily for prestige, or is it practical? What particular benefits have they received since joining? Do they like the people? Would this association suit you as well, or is there another that might be better for your kind or work?

So you’ve chatted up everybody you know. You have a few names and you’d like to research further. You don’t need anyone to tell you the next step – the Internet. Look up the Web sites for the names you have and see what they have to offer. Get a feel for the general attitude. Do you sense professionalism and a welcoming tone? Do they sound snobby? (This is not necessarily a bad thing. High prestige might be one of your criteria.) Are their conferences, seminars and meetings held in places you can get to easily without a lot of expense? Do they allow you to visit before you join?

If none of the names your friends gave you turns up what you are looking for, don’t give up. Keep searching the Internet and industry newsletters and magazines. A good professional organization will give you a source of information and training; and a place to make friends and “talk shop”. It will look darn good on your resume.

Edgar @ Degrees and Debt

AuthorEdgar @ Degrees and Debt

Founder of Degrees and Debt. Edgar just wrapped up his MS in Project Management with a focus on Information Security Management. Battling back to even from student loans, mortgage and credit card debt is an art Edgar is learning to master. This is his journey.