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Professional Networking: The Benefits of Joining Professional Societies
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Professional Networking: The Benefits of Joining Professional Societies - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: The Benefits of Joining Professional Societies

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: The Benefits of Joining Professional Societies

We’ve discussed multiple times the value of a vibrant, diverse network, emphasizing the benefits of a group of acquaintances curated more for the kind of people they are than what their work is, or with whom they do the work. Yet there is also something to be said about a web of trusted colleagues working in the same field. There is a sharing of knowledge and experience, an insiders’ view of what’s going on in the micro and macro senses, not to mention tips on opportunities unknown to people uninvolved with your specific work. This is where the oft-mocked professional societies come in. It is true that many people treat these associations as little more than resume-padding, a group of letters to place after their names on marketing materials. However, for the network-minded, professional societies can be a rich source for contacts and genuine friendship.

Just about every field of professional endeavor has a society or ten, organizations who share news and information, nurture talent, and address important issues relevant to their field. These groups can cover a field, whether it is office management, marketing, or architecture, in its broadest concept or in progressively more dedicated niches: not only are there societies for human resource managers, but also for human resource managers in healthcare, and for human resource managers within specific fields of healthcare, such as dentistry. Members’ benefits are typically the same (with some variety), ranging from discounts on car insurance, subscriptions to societies’ journals and other publications, regional and national conferences, professional certifications, and professional development through courses and seminars. Many also offer malpractice insurance and life insurance, covered or offset by membership dues.

For many, membership is more a formality than a professionally beneficial activity. They note their society affiliations on their CVs, read the publications, accept the discounts, and attend the quarterly lunch-and-learn meetings, but their involvement ends there. However, for those willing to put in a bit more time, professional societies can be excellent networks. This is evident just by watching the organizers and elected officers at any event. The officers, volunteers, and hosts work for different firms within the same field, and in the best cases, interact with the ease and familiarity of respectful and amiable professional—and sometimes personal—friendship. These relationships come not because cards are passed around after the meetings, but because colleagues have worked together on meaningful tasks. They are getting out of their affiliation what they have put into it, and it begins with volunteering.

As with any nonprofit organization, professional associations run on the labor of volunteers. Active local organizations—and active local chapters of national organizations—are active thanks to engaged volunteers; less-active (or dormant) organizations become so when there’s no new blood to step in when longtime volunteers retire or move on. And there are many opportunities for volunteers: standing committees need members and chairs, the periodic lunch-and-learns need organizers and meeting space, community service activities need willing hands, and the organizations themselves need officers. Except in very cliquish groups (a hazard in these kinds of associations), you can be as involved as you want to be, and the more involved you are, the healthier your network grows, and it does so organically, through shared work toward common goals, rather than artificially through handshakes and schmoozing.

Although this should never be your motivation, your network benefits in less directly when you spend time in voluntary service. People get to know you and your employer, even before you’ve gotten to know everyone in the group. They see your face at the meetings, they watch your hard work come to fruition, and they hear your name in the introductions. You become someone to know, especially when you assume an elected official position. When you’re working hard to further a cause other people are invested in, and when people see your hard work, people want to add you to their network because you add value to their membership, and this is good for you and for them.

Professional societies can be so much more than something to include on your resume. They can be great sources of information, and if you give them some time, they can be robust networks of people who know and care about you.

 

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Professional Networking: The Benefits of Joining Professional Societies - Executive Leadership Articles

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