Membership in professional organizations is an investment in your professional credibility and development. It can help you stay connected to your peers and learn how others in your field are contributing to your profession.
It’s easy to join a professional organization, pay your dues, and indicate you are a member on your resume or CV and LinkedIn profile, but are you really making the most of your membership? Are you making a difference both to yourself and to your community?
Remember when you were (or still are) conducting research for your master’s program or dissertation topic for your doctoral program? Remember all of those articles in academic journals you would retrieve from the library? Now, think about an article you authored turning up in the results. How exciting would that be?
Many professionals give back to their field by publishing their research and writing for academic journals. Numerous members of NCU’s academic leadership and faculty have had articles published in scholarly publications. For instance, Dr. Branden Henline, dean, School of Marriage and Family Sciences, has been published in Family Therapy Magazine, Personal Relationships, the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy as well as Contemporary Family Therapy. Involvement in academic and professional organizations is important to an individual’s continued learning and improvement in his or her field.
“Being a good student or professional requires a commitment to continuous improvement. That means you need to keep learning,” said Dr. Henline.
Even if getting published isn’t a short-term reality, professionals can also consider serving as a guest speaker for organizations relevant to their career. Last year, several members of NCU’s faculty and academic leadership presented at the 19th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning in Orlando, Fla., from November 20-22. The conference focused on e-learning and practices plus experiences among educators in a number of sectors ranging from PK-12, higher education and other industries like healthcare, not to mention other professional associations. In addition, several members of the School of Marriage and Family Sciences presented at the 2013 American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Annual Conference in Portland, Ore.
Serving on a board or acting as a mentor is also a way to give back to your professional and academic community. Last year, Dr. James Billings, assistant dean of the School of Marriage and Family Sciences, was elected a member of the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. In addition, in July 2013, Dr. A. Lee Smith, dean of the School of Business and Technology Management, was selected as President-Elect of the Western Council of Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP Region 7). In these positions, Dr. Billings and Dean Smith can serve as thought leaders for their professional communities.
Most professional associations offer members exclusive benefits. Many websites of professional associations have “members-only” sections. Members can access information not available to the general public like informational databases, message boards, member lists, contact information and other exclusive content. Members can typically attend networking or educational events hosted by the organization free of charge or for a reduced fee. Depending upon the type of work you do, participation in a professional organization can even help you land a new client!
If you are interested in joining a professional organization, really think about why you want to get involved and how you can contribute to the organization’s mission and activities. You will be spending time and energy with your involvement, so it is important to set expectations up front about what you want to gain, how you can contribute, and what new skills you want to acquire that will lend credibility to you, professionally.
*Originally published in Higher Degrees Winter 2014.