Three Reasons to Join a Professional Association

Not sure if joining a professional association is worth your time? Marc Goldman, your resident job search and professional development blogger, is back to explain why you should consider joining one.

While my skills portfolio has increased over my more than two decades in the field of career services, a great deal of my own growth and professional development has been augmented and enhanced by my involvement in professional associations.  I learned many years ago that there are professional associations for just about every industry under the sun.  When I was in graduate school in the early 1990s, I discovered the Directory of National Trade and Professional Associations, an immense volume that most assuredly now takes many online forms.  As an experiment, I wanted to put my assumption to the test and see if there was an association connected to the keyword “swine.”  Don’t ask me to recall why I chose that word, but it seemed just far afield enough not to show up in the listing.  But lo and behold, there was more than one organization associated with the swine industry.  Believe it or not!

The organization I have had the most involvement with throughout my career is the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).  This excellent organization uniquely includes both college career services and employer campus recruiting professionals under one roof.  Basically, it brings together the individuals and institutions whose shared goal and work is the career success and achievement of college students.  Feel free to do some homework on the organization at your leisure at www.naceweb.org.  You might even stumble upon a few more blog posts by yours truly on there.

What have I gained from membership in this professional association?  Ah, let me count the ways.  There are many continuing education offerings throughout the year in various forms and formats.  From webinars to live trainings and major national conferences, there is something for everyone at the scope and scale of their preference.  I had the privilege of attending NACE’s Management Leadership Institute, which was a wonderful weeklong immersion into the various aspects of managing a career center when I first started in my current Executive Director position.  It also provided me with the opportunity to connect with 60 career services colleagues also attending the training.  I still count on a handful of these peers as part of my professional support network to this day.

I mentioned national conferences, and I have attended NACE annual conferences for 15 years now.    I have moderated panels, presented on various topics, received award recognition, and even served on the conference program committee.  These experiences have allowed me to hone my presentation, facilitation, and leadership skills on a national stage and within an organization almost 100 times the size of my department.  In addition, it has allowed my university to be noted and noticed by far more higher education professionals and employers than ever before, a win for the school!

I have served on or chaired a number of NACE committees during my career as well. This has been another route to working with professionals in my business from a vast array of diverse schools and companies whom I might never have even met in the course of my job alone. And committee work is a great way to have a direct impact on the profession, its messaging, and its relationship with the higher education community at large.

NACE also has established a mentor program. For the past 5 years or so, I have mentored other professionals through monthly phone conversations and additional emails and follow-up calls as needed. It is a mutually rewarding experience for both mentor and mentee and a cool way for me to give back to the profession. I enjoy no greater professional pleasure than when I get to meet one of my current or past mentees face to face at a conference or when they happen to be visiting NYC.

Of course, membership in professional associations serves as resume fodder and demonstrates dedication to one’s field. All the training, presentations, committee membership, and leadership roles can become interview content and networking tools unto themselves. Find an organization that works best for you and get involved!