It might seem like in this era of virtual everything, joining an industry association is a thing of the past. Why join a professional organization when you can just network on LinkedIn and get all your industry news online?
But actually, associations have an even bigger role to play now than ever. The internet contains a plethora of information and easy, superficial interactions. However, that also leads to more noise, more competition for people’s attention and fewer truly meaningful connections. In a world awash in virtual content and communication in the form of short comments and “likes,” there is an ever greater need to cut through all that noise and foster deeper connections. This is one of the areas where an industry association comes in.
Eight Reasons to Join an Association
For the networking.
Again, you may think that you don’t need in-person networking in this day and age, but meeting people face-to-face is simply more effective than connecting virtually. Human beings are social creatures and we get most of our social cues from facial expressions. There is simply no substitute for meeting people in person when it comes to earning trust and creating lasting bonds.
By becoming a member of an association, you will also have access to many other professionals in your field who might be difficult to connect with otherwise. Many leaders in your industry may find it presumptuous if you try to contact them out of the blue via online means. However, they will usually be more receptive to starting up a professional correspondence after meeting you at an association-sponsored event.
For scoping out new hires.
If you are in a position to make hires or make recommendations to management about potential up-and-coming talent, your fellow association members can be a great source for recruitment. A resume is such a limited way to suss out someone’s potential and more importantly, whether they would be a good fit in your organization. Industry associations can be a great source for finding job candidates who are serious and passionate about what they do.
For enhancing your legitimacy.
Membership in an association is one more credential to solidify your reputation as a serious player in the industry. Especially when you are early in your career and you don’t have many other credentials to boast of yet, being able to claim that you are a proud member of a professional association (or associations) can increase your legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
For staying on top of trends.
You are a busy professional. You don’t have time to comb through dozens of news sites and online subscription services to stay on top of current trends in your industry. Most associations do a really good job of bringing the most relevant news, trends and updates to their members in the form of newsletters, magazines, webinars, blog articles, social media sharing and more.
For continuing your education.
Regardless of whether continuing education or licensing renewals are required by your industry, associations can be a fantastic resource for lifelong learning and training specific to your field. These educational sessions will often be on specialized topics and techniques that you won’t find anywhere else. It is a fantastic resource for staying at the forefront of your field.
For having a say in the direction of your industry.
Regardless of whether you are involved in business, nonprofit work, research or education, you will be subject to a certain amount of governmental oversight. Getting involved with your association can allow you to have a say in lobbying the government on relevant regulations that affect your work and that of your peers. Pleading your case via an association wields far more power than trying to reach your representatives as an individual.
You also have the opportunity to use your membership within the association to influence and drive industry change. Promote new technologies to your peers, advocate for certain areas of focus or research and draw attention to causes that matter to you.
For marketing yourself.
You might not immediately think of an association as a great place to market yourself or your company, given that it is populated by your “competition,” but others in your industry can often be a source of new business. Some of the more established organizations could recommend you for jobs that are not their specialty, or simply when they are too booked up to take any more work. It never hurts to circulate your name amongst others in your field. It’s one more way to build name recognition and a positive reputation.
For staying ahead of the competition.
It all comes down to this, really. Joining a professional association puts you several steps ahead of any competitors who are not members. You have access to networking opportunities that they don’t. You have access to unique educational tools. You have extra credentials. You have greater legitimacy. These are just some of the many benefits of professional membership that are well worth considering.