The following post comes from Christine Stephens at partner site The Dollar Stretcher.
If you had only two hours a month to spend on career development, what would be your best choice to further your career?
- Spending more time in the office
- Lunching with the management
- Attending a professional organization in your field
- Reading up on your field online
The answer should be attending a professional organization in your field.
While these organizations have varied membership fees – usually lower for students or new graduates – you’ll find the whole “professional association” experience to be worth the price.
While being aware of the no-compete clause and confidentiality rules you must maintain for your employer, professional organizations are a wonderful place to hear new ideas. This is especially true in creative fields.
You get to meet the local movers and shakers in the field. You have the opportunity to hear about new software, publications, and laws just as they hit the shelf or newsstand. Job openings are always mentioned at these meetings too, usually well before the advertisement hits the Internet or newspaper ads.
These memberships sometimes also offer discounts. These include software and computer services, professional services, and training materials. Sometimes you also have the ability to haggle for discounts from other members of the group who you might wish to hire.
These meetings usually include an informative presentation. The content runs the gamut from personal success stories to presentation of new software to talks about literary works, all focusing on this specific field.
For students, these organizations are a gold mine. Many offer scholarships with very few other applicants. Sometimes the rules for the scholarships are flexible. You get the opportunity to meet influential people in the field and solicit internship possibilities. The discounts can be helpful purchasing software and training materials. The presentations can give you some direction as to which reading materials and publications would be helpful. You also have many opportunities to find a mentor in that field with assurance as to the success of the person instead of relying upon a personal synopsis only.
Hands down, the two hours you spend monthly in a professional organization is the best investment you can make in your career success and development.