Joining a professional organization is a tremendous step in forming a network of professionals that you may be able to use for references, job-hunting or to get different ideas from. These organizations come in all types and are set apart by religion, ethnicity, gender, or region. Selecting these organizations does not seem like it would be very difficult. There are challenges in making sure you pick the best professional organizations for you.
- Get a list of organizations. You can find professional organizations online; you will read about them in textbooks or training materials; you may also hear others in classes or work discuss the different organizations. Using all of these sources, you should create a list of the different organizations you are hearing about. After you make the list, eliminate the ones that you do not qualify for (due to gender, nationality, ethnicity or region). This will leave you with a smaller list of professional organizations to research.
- Research. Researching any group before joining a professional organization is important. Some groups charge membership dues but provide you with no services. Others may be free, but do not give you any real networking. You will also want to make sure that any professional organization has a good reputation in your chosen field. Putting a professional organization on your resume, that has been publicly investigated or questioned about ethics, is one of the worst things you can do. The research phase should be one of the most time-consuming and carefully thought through steps when deciding to join a professional organization.
- More is not always better. Do not just join every organization that you can find on your list. Be selective. The reason is very simple. You can be active in a couple of professional organizations. People will get to know you and you can work to gain a reputation among your peers. If you join too many, you will not be able to accomplish as much within any one organization. Listing 10 professional organizations on a resume may seem like a good idea, but in reality, it just shows that you have joined 10 organizations. It is better to list two organizations and your accomplishments within those two. It shows that you are dedicated, rather than just trying to extend a network.
No matter how you approach joining a professional organization. The goal is simple: to increase your networking, and to increase your ability to do your job. It is not always easy to decide which organizations to join, and do not take such decisions too lightly. Research the best professional organizations for you, and they can provide you invaluable insight, information and assistance.