You may have heard from a professor or career counselor that professional associations are something you should get involved in. You may have even joined some student groups on campus.
But what is a professional association?
By definition a professional association is a collection of people which “represent the interest of professional practitioners”. For instance, I am a member of several professional associations; one such is a national association dedicated to the field of career development. With my membership I receive a quarterly publication with articles on issues relevant to my field, gain access to links of important career development web sites, find opportunities to connect with my colleagues from local chapters, hear about professional development opportunities and I also have a resource to understand the ethical guidelines of my field.
So you might be thinking now, what does this have to do with me? I am a student.
Professional associations are a great way to connect you with others related to your field of interest. As you have probably read from some of the great work my colleagues have done here, the job search is not just about finding a job anymore, it’s actually more weighted towards finding people that can help you. I have written before that professional associations are a great way to connect to events that can get you rubbing elbows with professionals in your field. In addition to that, professional associations can assist you in getting information related to your field, possibly connect you with a mentor, and perhaps even point you to an internship or job.
Here are some simple tips to questions that you may have regarding professional associations:
“How do I find a professional association?”
- Check-in with your Career Center to see if they have listings of professional associations
- Do a google search (i.e. “health care professional associations”) and you may find associations or even directories to numerous association links
- Search LinkedIn for professional associations or groups and also review professional’s profiles to see what groups they belong to
- Ask professionals what groups they are associated with during informational interviews
- Ask your professors for recommendations
“How can I afford professional association fees?”
There are many ways that you can find affordable options to join professional associations. Take a look at the professional association web site and examine what you get for your fees. Often times there is a link or section that specifically outlines what the benefits of joining that association entails. While association’s typically have fees, many have reduced student fees to join. In addition, the association may be willing to give you a reduced fee or waive the fee altogether. However, you have to ask.
Contact the association and explain your situation and see what they can do. After all, if the association can connect with you as a student there is a higher probability you will become a dues paying member when you become a professional in the field.
“Ok, I joined now what?”
Once you have joined a professional association or two, you can really start reaping the benefits. Start by reviewing the web site to determine how you can gain some professional development from your new association.
You may be able to use your membership to:
- Find an internship or job lead
- Identify issues or trends in your field
- Identify blogs, Twitter Feeds, LinkedIn groups to join
- Discover local chapters of your association that have face-to-face meetings
- Connect with events or opportunities such as conventions or volunteer opportunities
- Meet a mentor
- Attend webcasts or listen to podcasts on issues relevant to your field
- Get discounts for goods and services
All in all, professional associations are a great way to get you connected to information, people and jobs/internships related to your field. Try reviewing one today!
Joe is a career counselor at San Jose State University. His areas of specialization include: experiential education, resume development, interview preparation, job search strategy, and assessment inventories. In his role, he also serves as the community manager for the Career Center’s social media outlets. Connect with Joe on Twitter or follow samplings of his work via Career Action Now and The SJSU Career Center blog.