To me, “networking” has this connotation of “what can you do for me.” It implies a superficialness that makes me feel uneasy.
Relationships. Join your professional association to meet people in your field, and to learn from them. Maybe you’ll meet your next mentor or mentee, or your next co-worker or boss. Expect to develop long-term professional relationships where you’ll give and take and learn and teach.
It’s probably free to you. At every job I’ve had after college, my employer has paid for one membership in a professional association, so my assumption is that this benefit is pretty common. Take advantage of it and choose one that aligns the best with your career. If you are self-employed or if your company doesn’t list this as a professional development benefit, don’t let the membership cost detract you from exploring this opportunity. The career development you’ll get out of your association is truly priceless.
Advance your career. Go into your professional association ready to learn. You’ll hear about industry trends, best practices and local resources that are bound to help you in your job (if not, find a different association to join). This knowledge will undoubtedly help you do your job better…which may lead to a promotion, or a new opportunity elsewhere. Exciting!
Challenge yourself. The association I belong to, PRSA, has a well-regarded certification called the APR. A lot of professional associations have these types of accreditations, and they can help you dive deep into your field and take your industry knowledge to the next level.
Recognition from your peers. While this is not the most important reason to join your professional association, it is nice to get a pat on the back for your hard work every once in a while. Professional associations like PRSA offer yearly awards for projects and campaigns, and even applying for these awards can be a great exercise in reminding yourself of all the effort you put in. And as a member, your submission fees will be discounted!
Leadership experience. After you’ve been a member of an association for a while, you’ll want to consider joining a committee or the local board of directors. On the PRSA Nebraska board, the members come from a variety of fields, and they represent a spectrum of experiences and backgrounds. It’s not like you need decades of experience to join the board…but if you do, that’s great, too!
Professional associations are the perfect place to meet your people – these are your peers who understand the challenges you face in your job, and understand how significant your victories are. Often without realizing it, they become your professional support system.
As an agency, we’ve valued being involved with all the local advertising, graphic design, marketing and public relations associations in various ways. It helps us broaden our…network. Maybe that’s not a bad word after all!