Most successful professionals maintain a great profile among company colleagues, school peers, and fellow social group members. These boxes are easy to check for people who are active at work and in their local community, but how many have a profile that carries over into organizations in their sector?
Regardless of where you are in your career, professional organizations provide a variety of opportunities to fine-tune your skills, stay on top of industry innovation and expand your network. “Every professional should take advantage of the existing networks created by the organizations in their sector,” says Deborah Hyman, president of the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS) and director of global communications at Verizon. “[It's important to attend] local events and make a real connection with at least ten people present. Follow up on those meetings and build relationships over time.”
Professional, industry-focused organizations can be the special element you need to change the game in terms of your career success. These tips will help you maximize your membership and make sure your involvement in professional organizations works for you:
Apply for leadership positions. Engaged members reap the most benefits in industry organizations. As you consider how to maximize your membership, why not shoot for the top and join a committee or the executive board? Committee members often form valuable, sustainable relationships, and serving on a board can be a good way to build leadership skills.
Get involved at the local and national level. Most professional organizations have local or regional chapters in addition to a national executive team, and the relationships that can be made at both levels are invaluable. Professional organizations provide the benefit of having a built-in network wherever your path leads you. As our careers evolve, roles and geographies change, and you can have a diverse network far and wide by engaging in both.
Seek out opportunities to speak at industry conferences. These events provide a great opportunity to polish your presentation skills, and registration fees are usually waived for conference speakers. In addition, they can help you make the critical transition into being a thought leader with a hand on the pulse of industry.
Make your company aware of your involvement. Most employers have a favorable view of active participation in professional organizations. Be sure to promote your organizational activity with your colleagues and demonstrate how you are serving as a company ambassador among new audiences.
James S. Walker (@jaywalk1) is a Washington, D.C.-based digital strategy and public relations manager, leading digital strategy creation and execution for a mix of corporate and nonprofit clients at APCO Worldwide. Intrigued by how social and cultural insights connect people on a global level, Walker has completed long-term project assignments in China and Mongolia, and chronicles his thoughts on the industry via his blog, PR Prescriptions, and Website, Socially Diverse.