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How to Strategically Use Professional Associations to Advance Your Career

career Feb 17, 2019

Professional associations are a major asset when it comes to staying employed and developing a more rewarding career and in building your business. Whether you're seeking to expand your network, speak at conferences, advance your knowledge, or find a mentor, joining and being active in professional associations can prove beneficial.

There are a myriad of organizations out there, some with thousands of international members and others that are localized and smaller. Consider visiting a few of interest before you commit to ensure you join an organization that rights for you, particularly since participation is the key to success. 

Here's a few tips to get the most out of your membership depending on your career or business stage.

Pay reduced dues. If you're new to the field or industry you can usually pay lower dues in your first years because associations are eager to attract promising new talent. Check the website or call the membership office to discover your options.

Work with a mentor. It can be difficult to capture the attention of prominent people without some form of introduction. Mingling together at association events can widen your opportunities and introduce you to influential mentors in your field.

Research an industry. You can explore an association even while you’re still deciding your business niche or are in a career change. Sitting in on a few roundtable luncheons is certainly more cost effective than developing ineffective or inaccurate marketing collateral.

Apply for senior positions. Executives and recruiters use associations to help fill their talent pool. Building up your visibility can get you noticed when there’s an opportunity to advance.

Recruit new employees. Similarly, you may find an association is a good source for filling positions in your company. Through your membership in a professional organization, you can interact with candidates in a setting that’s more natural than a job interview.

Education. Associations often have workshops or conferences with expert panels and speakers. This is a great way to advance your education and deepen your expertise in your field or industry.  This is also a great way to learn about new areas of interest if you're changing careers or businesses. 

Negotiate dues with your employer. Annual dues and expenses can add up. Your employer may agree to cover the costs if you convince them of the value. Be prepared with examples about how you’ve been able to use your membership to save your company money, enhance their reputation, expand their customer base, or bring them other benefits.

Access to information. Association newsletters, magazine, website and other member only resources can provide a wealth of knowledge that will keep you up-to-date on changes, developments and advancements in your field. 

Extend your network. For most people, developing positive relationships with colleagues is the greatest benefit of association memberships. Be generous about sharing information and services.

Enjoy discounts. Your membership may entitle you to significant savings and discounts on products and services that you need or often use in your career or business. If you're a solopreneur, these savings can add up quickly.

Engage in advocacy. Many associations lobby to create a favorable government environment for their business. Your efforts are likely to be more effective when you join with others.

Share your expertise. Giving presentations or writing a blog post can position you as a subject expert. You’ll also get to meet new people as they ask questions or comment on your materials.

Free marketing. As a business owner, you may be able to use the association's platform to advertise your services either for free or for a discounted fee. Be sure you know who the audience is (if they're viable clients), the cost, the frequency of the posting and who can access the ads.

Contribute to society. Your association can also guide you through combining your professional and philanthropic activities. Participate in holiday food drives or spend a weekend building affordable housing with other volunteers.

Professional associations provide many valuable opportunities whether you’re starting out or you’ve been working in your field for years. Network with your colleagues and stand out in your field.

Live, laugh and unapologetically shine,

Carol

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