Becoming a member of a professional association is not like subscribing to a magazine, it is a career choice. It is part of what being a professional is all about. It may sound old-school to some, but being a professional is important to most who have chosen to become professionals. This professional identity begins with joining your professional association.

Whether you’re working to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher or HR professional, there are elements of all professions that one simply cannot learn in school. As a student, becoming a member of, and participating in, your professional association is one way to accelerate your learning of the ropes. As a member of a professional association, one becomes a member of a special community. For example, the human resources (HR) community is quite diverse, but there is something that all members have in common and that is a passion for HR. Becoming a member of your professional association is the best way of connecting with others who share this same passion. Becoming a member of a professional association is also more than just belonging—it is not only about what you can get from your association but also what you can give back to the profession.

Professional associations are more than ‘clubs’ based on common interests, they are self-governing bodies. As a member of a professional association one becomes part of the governance of the association. Professional associations play an important role in society. In Canada, the model for professional regulation is self-regulation. This means that all important decisions concerning members of the profession or those who would become members of the profession are made by members of the profession. The whole system of professional regulation depends on professionals getting involved and contributing to the regulation of their profession. Without this participation, self-regulation simply could not work. There is also a certain amount of self-interest in participation in professional regulation. A profession’s practitioners share a brand—be it the accounting brand, the engineer brand or the HR professional brand. Whenever professionals fail to live up to professional standards, the reputation of the profession is diminished somewhat. By joining your professional association, you begin to assume your responsibilities as a professional.

A professional association is an organization formed to unite and inform people who work in the same occupation. There are many advantages to joining associations.
1.  For example, professional associations in healthcare represent a collection of professionals who work towards the common goal of promoting and improving the medical profession they are associated with. These healthcare organizations champion their members by providing resources, information, and opportunities they might not have had otherwise.

Members are bonded together as they advocate for their peers and share their challenges and triumphs with one another. Joining an association provides members with a competitive advantage because they become active, informed members of their industry. Many association members who lead busy professional lives depend on their association to brief them on important industry trends, new legislative rulings, and advances in technology.

2.  Associations provide unparalleled networking opportunities, allowing individuals to connect with their peers, mentors, and other industry leaders. As a member, you are in the unique position to attend conventions, seminars, award dinners and other related events with like-minded professionals in the field. These events are attended by the brightest minds and are a hotbed of ideas and collaborative efforts.

An association’s annual meeting represents an incredible opportunity for you to meet and network with the largest gathering of your peers during the year. Networking with professionals outside your place of employment can give you a broader perspective on the market and healthcare in general. Listening to the experiences of others may even leave you feeling energized and refreshed with the feeling you are not alone in the fight.

3.  The field of engineering is always in a state of change. Professional engineers can keep up with the newest developments and scientific breakthroughs through their associations’ seminars, journals, CME courses, and other educational opportunities provided to them. Additionally, many associations conveniently offer all of the certification courses you will need throughout your entire career. Your professional organization also provides access to mentors, giving you an opportunity to participate in mentoring others as well. Having a mentor in any field will help your career grow and thrive.

As an association member, you are in the unique position to gain a competitive edge by utilizing all of the educational resources available to you.

4.  Associations are always in need of new blood to help organize their annual meetings, workshops, CME courses, and legislative committees. Helping your organization work to improve your profession as well as to help improve the overall state of the industry can be a very rewarding opportunity.

To fully receive the benefits of membership, you need to be engaged with the association. With any membership, however, you get what you put into it. Get involved as often as possible and you will reap the benefits offered to you as a member.

5.  Take charge of your career and broaden your knowledge:   Another important reason to consider membership to a professional organization is to take advantage of their career resources. Associations often have job listings online or in print available only to their members. This is a great way to find targeted job postings for your area of interest. Additionally, many associations have career resources available such as tips on effective resumes or cover letters, job searching strategies and negotiating techniques. Some associations even have panels of experts that you can contact for specific questions on career issues. Other benefits include information about seminars, training or certification classes that may be suitable for you. Often these classes can be done through web- or podcasts so you don't even have to leave your home. And don't forget, listing your association membership on your resume is impressive to current or future employers as it shows that you are dedicated to staying connected in your profession.   

So, whether you are looking to learn about job postings in your field, network in your professional community, gain access to current events in your career area, or just have some fun while meeting new people, joining a professional association is a step in the right direction!

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Importance of the professional association