Taking Advantage Of Professional Associations In Every Career Stage


Mike DePrisco is the Chief Operating Officer (COO). Project Management Institute (PMI)a global association for project professionals.

With inflation wrecking wallets, rising interest rates, and even Silicon Valley companies dealing with layoffs, the volatile economy has left many feeling uncertain about their career trajectories.

The future may seem out of your control, at least in the short term. Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can take the lead in your career as a professional leader, even in an uncertain economy.

I believe one of the best ways to keep your career relevant, marketable and valuable in today’s environment is to join and work with professional associations.

Professional associations exist in nearly every industry or functional area and contain subsets focused on common geographical or ethnic commonalities. Of the more than 10,000 associations that exist in the United States, some examples include the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the National Association of Black Accountants, the Institute for Transportation Engineers, and the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.

You may be wondering if these organizations are worth the investment and time required, but as the head of a professional agency, I’ve found the answer overwhelmingly to be yes. In a world where leaders are continuously adapting to workplace disruptions, professional associations can provide their members with the tools they need to prepare for the career opportunities and challenges ahead.

Whether you’re new to the field, an industry veteran, or someone in between, here’s a snapshot of how you can take advantage of your association membership.

upskill or upskill

Nearly three-quarters of millennial and Gen Z employees will leave their current employer in 2023 because they feel a lack of skill-building opportunities, according to a recent study conducted by Amazon. It turns out that there is a possibility.

Many employees can find the skill set upgrades they seek through seminars, workshops, and courses offered by professional associations. We encourage you to seek out ways to get your employer to pay for or supplement these services.

As job requirements become increasingly skill-based, investing in yourself through relevant training can help you manage your marketability and differentiate yourself from your peers. Education is a great way to make your career recession-proof.

Professional associations often do more than just offer training classes. Many companies offer opportunities to certify or recertify key skills. This will give you even more credibility, visibility and marketability from your peers and recruiters.

trend spot

In nearly every job role, the way work was done ten years ago looks very different from the way work is done today. As you progress in your career, it’s easy to assume that the knowledge and skills you needed ‘then’ are still valid today. But changing processes, procedures, and technical tools can frustrate even experienced employees.

We strongly encourage you to take advantage of educational resources and events offered through professional associations. By doing so, members can stay up to date on the latest trends and methodologies within the industry. Without a repository of knowledge, workers can easily become isolated and unprepared for new innovations and ways of working that can quickly become a necessity.

networking

Whether you’re happy with your current job or itching to move, everyone benefits from establishing a network of like-minded individuals. Building a robust professional network can be one of a professional’s most valuable assets at any career stage. And it’s a network that stays with you throughout your journey.

Through meetup events, conferences, seminars, monthly luncheons, or participation in committees, networking opportunities within the professional body are endless. It’s where many professionals find potential mentees (or mentors), colleagues with the same experience level, and even employees.

The latter point is very important. Because today’s hiring process is driven by automated, depersonalized corporate application tracking systems, even the right applications can easily get lost in the chaos. Having a personal connection with someone within the association can help you find compatible workers.

volunteer to stretch

By participating in volunteer committees and special projects, you can use your professional association membership to try something new and give back to your profession in a meaningful way. It’s a chance to build muscles untested at work in a safer environment that’s less stressful than the workplace. Or it gives you the chance to try out new roles in unfamiliar fields or industries before committing fully.

This is an attractive opportunity for early- or mid-stage professionals who can stretch their wings in leadership roles that may not yet be available in the workplace, and will help prepare them should such assignments arise. There is a possibility.

When considering which professional associations to join, evaluate them as you would any job opportunity. What activities are you interested in? Is it within my existing industry or is it an industry I’d like to learn more about? Do you offer resources to help close the skills gap?

Answering these questions will help you find the right organization—one that can enhance your current job and prepare you for your next.


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