No matter what level of employment a worker labors at—whether the most menial of occupations or a position requiring the highest level of education, experience, and skills—there are almost certainly one or more professional organizations they are qualified to be a member of.
The origins of such organizations are lost in the mists of time, but certainly they owe much to the medieval guilds of stone masons, carpenters, and other artisans that were widespread in the Middle Ages. These early forms of professional organizations were created to safeguard the secrets of their disciplines from the uninitiated, thus helping to provide job security, protect the authority of the guild’s leaders, provide a resource for members facing hard times, and ensure that the quality of the work they produced met the highest standards.
Today’s professional organizations
The goals of professional organizations these days are essentially the same as in the past, with the exception of guarding esoteric trade secrets, although that’s not entirely unheard of. Foremost among the goals of most groups is the oversight and regulation of professional standards and practices, with the public interest in mind. This involves the study and documentation of accepted procedures and practices—and the censure of members who fail to adhere to these standards.
A secondary but no less important purpose of any organization is to provide a venue for members to communicate and network with each other, through conventions, meetings, and trade publications. Lastly, a professional organization strives to provide its members with resources for ongoing learning and career advancement.
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Some of the benefits of becoming a member of a professional organization include, but are not limited to:
- The ability to take part in developing the standards and best practices of their profession: Through participation in the association’s governing board, oversight committees, mentoring, and consulting groups, a member can have considerable influence on the development and direction of their profession. Additionally, a professional organization is usually active in lobbying legislative bodies for laws that are favorable to its members.
- Opportunities to network with other members: Membership provides contacts at the local, state, national, and even international level. Such contacts can be invaluable when searching for a new position or to expand an existing practice. Often exclusive job opportunities are posted for members only, and many organizations provide resume development and mentoring services.
- Continuous learning opportunities: Members usually have access to professional development resources to enhance skills and knowledge and to stay up to date on changes within their field. These include conferences and workshops, online classes, white papers, newsletters, and other educational resources.
- Membership group discounts: Most organizations get group discounts on a wide range of products and services, everything from auto, life, and medical insurance to vacation packages and condominium rentals. These discounts alone or often worth more than the cost of membership.
- Access to scholarships and internships: These are often available to students who plan to pursue a career within a specific profession, or to members who want to advance in their field.
- Resume enhancement: Listing membership in a professional organization is an excellent addition to a resume. It’s an indication that a job candidate is serious enough about their career to make an investment of money and time in it.
There’s a professional organization for just about every profession and occupation. The benefits that can be reaped are well worth a small investment in membership dues.