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Professional Organizations: To Join or Not to Join

What are the things you’ve considered in the past when joining extracurricular activities? Stakeholders? Community service? Socialization with others? Costs? Extracurricular activity considerations do not have to be completely different when thinking about joining a professional organization.  

Professional organizations can be formal or informal. One of the most resourceful, but often missed opportunities for a professional organization is staying connected with your classmates. Your classmates likely have similar professional interests. Think of ways to stay connected with them after graduation or throughout college, whether that be a LinkedIn group or creating your own focus groups that meet monthly to discuss current trends in your industries of interest.

On a more formal side of professional organizations, there are numerous professional organizations to choose from, but how to find the right one is the ultimate dilemma.

Consider:

  1. Defining your interests.

  2. Understanding the mission and vision of the organization.

  3. Knowing your time constraints.

  4. Identifying what is expected of you.

  5. Distinguishing what you bring to the table, and be a resource.

Benefits to think about when joining a professional organization:

Networking

The most obvious bonus with professional organizations is increasing your network. However, what is a network without a meaningful relationship behind the connection. It is better to focus on quality over quantity. Quality relationships allow others to understand your interests as well as you understanding their interests. A group that supports and trusts you is more likely to be vested in your future career development.

New Opportunity

According to LinkedIn, 85% of the workforce is open to new opportunities, but they are not actively looking. Professional organizations not only provide a resource for a network, but possibly the next lead to an amazing job opportunity that you would not have ever envisioned in your wildest of dreams.

Are you an individual contributor looking to enhance your leadership skills? A professional organization can be a great gateway to bridge the gap in your leadership experience.

Mentorship

What do you want to become in your time as a professional? How are you going to get there? What do you value? Mentors are a great way to help you define the unknown of your career. Unfortunately, most careers do not have a straight line to becoming a CEO for a Fortune 500 company.

Ultimately, do not consider joining every organization that appears in a Google search. Although surfing the internet, asking peers, and utilizing your leaders are a great place to start.

  1. Focus your efforts on the organization that will be YOUR best value add. What works for your friend, may not always work for you. Find what fits your needs, but also knowing your needs could change with time.
  2. Ask your colleagues with similar interests what organizations they belong to – check out their organizations.
  3. Try not to immediately eliminate an organization just because it costs money. Money for students can be tight, but remember, most CEOs were not born CEOs.

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”
-Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks

About the author

Lauren Verhoff

Lauren Verhoff is a Graduate Administrative Associate with Engineering Career Services.