Be a joiner: Professional organizations keep you connected with people who can forward your career
By Erin H. Brown
Whether you’re in a job you like, out of one, or simply keeping an eye out for the role of your dreams, there’s no doubt that networking with peers in your field of interest is a good thing to do. One way to approach this and meet the right people is by joining a professional organization. Not only do these groups offer introductions to other enthusiastic workers and job-seekers, they often provide access to thought leaders. They also feed you with insights via tailored industry events (webinars, in-person meetings, conferences).
Where to start
Here are the broad strokes of finding the right group or groups for you. First off, what is your field of interest? There are websites you can use to connect with a group or groups identifying with your field.
The U.S. Department of Labor also sponsors a professional association finder on CareerOneStop. Simply use keywords to search for what you are looking for. Meanwhile, the “Reference for Business” category lists the top (by membership size) professional and trade associations.
To dig immediately into your particular field, search for your target word + professional or trade association.
These are great places to start your search.
Now go wide
Note that an interdisciplinary (relating to more than one branch of knowledge) approach is advised these days because broad and diverse outlooks can help bridge communications across company silos or simply expand your options for work. So in addition to seeking out the best organization in your particular industry, find another one in a related field.
For example, if you are a writer, check out the American Library Association, with its extensive events and advocacy arms. If your specialty is manufacturing or sales, look beyond these monikers for groups that will help broaden your knowledge about a specific industry, like healthcare or technology. Take what I call a tandem approach: find the most valuable trade or professional organization based on your specific field while also casting a wider net to expand the context of your work.
The goal is to think broadly about the types of connections you can make and how that might impact your career outlook and goals. Note that some organizations require a membership fee. Some also offer paid certification or career-related services. So this help is not always free.
I recommend creating a short list of interesting groups in and related to your field and researching.
Don’t forget social
Of course LinkedIn is a treasure trove of professional connections, groups, and associations. This is an especially important resource as people aim to connect with others who can help forward their career goals — and are receptive to meeting new (virtual) peers. Search for groups on LinkedIn. Read articles from your industry’s top publications and connect with the authors of those articles.
Recruiters also turn to LinkedIn these days, so be sure to add relevant search terms to your profile so that you are found by the right people in their searches. Another important aspect of the LinkedIn community is global access. Whereas some of the above-mentioned organizations focus on US-based trade and professional groups, LinkedIn reaches around the globe.
Good luck in your search. And please share additional suggestions on professional and trade organizations by writing to the PDC Post. You can send your emails to the PDC editor Dave Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know where else to look!
Erin H. Brown is a writer and communications consultant based in Boston, Massachusetts. Her professional experience includes: senior communications roles at MIT and Harvard Business School Publishing; writing and producing roles at the Associated Press and regional NBC and CBS news affiliates, and extensive PR experience. Learn more at linkedin.com.