Membership Privileges

How to benefit from joining a professional organization.

Cherine Anderson, 39, a marketing manager for Nickelodeon, always wanted to work for MTV. “But you send résumés, you call, and nobody would pay any attention,” she remarks.

Several attempts to find employment with Viacom, the parent company of CBS Television Network, BET, MTV, and Nickelodeon, had proven fruitless–until she found assistance. “About eight years ago, a member of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications helped me get through the doors of Viacom.”

But there were other benefits in this association: As Anderson moved up the corporate ladder from MTV freelancer to full-time assistant with Nickelodeon, her boss–then marketing vice president and also a NAMIC member–became her mentor.

Belonging to an industry-related organization has moved beyond the traditional perks of member journals, job listings, workshops, and annual conventions. Joining a professional organization can offer a significant boost to your career, but it requires more than just attending meetings. “In the beginning, I would go to the meetings and leave. I didn’t know if I had enough time to get more involved,” explains Anderson.

She eventually became New York chapter president, where her accomplishments included increasing membership by 40%, raising a significant amount of money for arts and education programs for a local nonprofit, and donating computers to small businesses in Harlem. Anderson is also a member of Women in Film and Television and Women in Cable & Telecommunications.

Taking on responsibility with an organization not only lends to your credibility but also puts you in the spotlight. “You have to consciously work to make yourself visible. Just as long as you’re not just sitting quietly, lost in the audience,” says Wendy Enelow, executive director at the Career Masters Institute in Lynchburg, Virginia, a professional association for career coaches and counselors, résumé writers, outplacement consultants, college and university career development staff, and other career professionals.

Enelow suggests that you should be mindful of how you’re developing relationships as you’re building a reputation in your organization. Robert Monroe is a 37-year-old vice president of marketing for 3rd Edge Communications, a creative services agency in Jersey City, New Jersey. He has access to a unique network as a member of the Company of Friends, Fast Company magazine’s online network and offline community of self-organizing groups of business executives.

Monroe gains access to about 30 e-mails each day from members of the network who have business questions on everything from solving computer viruses to resources for an international move. “It’s an opportunity to be educated about things you don’t know. You see the questions being asked and you see the answers being given. It’s great. You get a chance to think about business topics that you may not have thought about. You get some insight from people who have experience dealing with certain problems and certain issues,” says Monroe. In the true sense of a network, members who are able to log on are never disconnected. The group members also schedule monthly face-to-face gatherings and offer a speaker series.

“You have to be willing to give,” insists Monroe. “Whether that

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