While exploring credibility, I’ve posted about LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging. Though these online tools can do wonders for someone trying to build his or her brand within an industry, face-to-face interaction can never be replaced.
One of the best ways to build your brand, learn about an industry and stay motivated is to participate in professional organizations. These groups exist to bring together individuals who share a particular interest, passion or industry. Joining a professional association can give you access to job and internship postings, the expertise of industry professionals, networking events, industry journals or publications, and learning opportunities, such as conferences and webinars.
How does participation in a professional organization translate to credibility?
I know few undergraduate students who are members of professional organizations. Right away, just by signing up, you stand out from most of your peers. A willingness to pay membership fees (often lower for students) and show up at events, demonstrates to established professionals and potential employers that you are willing to invest in your career.
The face-to-face networking and informal socializing that takes place at association events will be tremendously helpful in gaining advice, support, and connections in your field. While you can do these things online, nothing beats face-to-face interactions when it comes to establishing trust. And you need trust to have credibility.
Don’t be afraid to take your association involvement to the next level – this is where credibility is really developed. Serve on a committee, volunteer to help with event planning or develop a presentation you can deliver at the next conference. People will be able to see firsthand the quality of your work and know you deliver on your commitments.
Standing up and delivering a presentation in a room full of more experienced professionals, or working side-by-side with other members to plan events can be intimidating. But few people ever find success without taking a risk and putting themselves out there.
As a graduate student, I co-presented a break-out session during a conference for higher education professionals. I was nervous that, as a student, I had no business teaching more experienced professionals anything about education-related topics.
Yet, at the end of our presentation, audience members came up to my co-presenter (also a graduate student) and I to ask more in-depth questions, wanting to hear our opinions. My thoughts on the topic were not any more special than other professionals. By presenting at the conference, though, we demonstrated knowledge in a particular subject area and a willingness to stand up and start a conversation. People perceived us as credible sources of information and professionals who cared about engaging in thoughtful discussions, instead of just students who there to learn.
Not sure what kind of organizations might be a fit for you? The nice people at Google have created a directory of professional organizations or, just insert your industry/interest with the phrase “professional organization” into your search engine of choice. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of your connections to see the organizations in which they are involved.
Have you benefited from membership in a professional organization? Do share!
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Kelly received her masters degree in Higher Education/Student Personnel Administration from New York University, and her bachelors degree from UW-Madison, where she majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn orBrazenCareerist.