When it comes to professional organizations, it might be easy to think that adding as many organizations as possible will help improve your resume. Students and professionals early in their career may look to create a list of places they’re involved in. Certainly, professional organizations can help you make connections and uplevel your career. The key, however, is to be thoughtful and selective of the organizations you join. Doing so is essential not only for your own success, but also for the good of the organizations that you serve.
Use these guidelines to help you decide which professional organization to join.
Be Selective When Choosing
It’s not uncommon to see a wide net cast when searching for groups to be involved in that are in your industry. There can certainly be advantages that come from making many contacts. However, to truly get involved, I’ve found that it’s often not necessary to join as many organizations as possible. Rather than getting spread out thin over a dozen or more groups, look for two or three where you can have a strong commitment.
As you research, seek out places that share your interests and values. Once you locate them, attend several meetings or events before signing up. If you can find a group or project that you are passionate about, you’ll be more motivated to stay and find ways to help. You’ll be able to volunteer your time and know that you are contributing to an important cause.
Check The Structure
Ask about the organization’s leadership roles or look online to review their management charts. Rather than being just a “joiner,” see if there are opportunities to take on leadership roles. You might offer to volunteer in a position, which can help you build credibility and gain experience at the same time.
Roll Up Your Sleeves
Even if there are leadership positions available, you might start out in a lower role, especially if you are just beginning your career. Many organizations will appreciate someone who is willing to donate their time and take on tasks to relieve the workloads that others carry. If you have extra hours on the weekends or during certain seasons of the year, you might offer to cover additional duties.
Aim To Add Value
Once you have a chance to get to know others in the organization, check for opportunities that will allow you to put your expertise to work and create value. If you have a background in marketing, you might be able to spearhead a new promotional campaign. For those who specialize in fund raising, there could be ways to help the organization gather more resources and take on additional projects.
Evaluate Professional Versus Not-For-Profit Organizations
It’s often great to strike a balance between professional organizations that can be helpful to your career, and also nonprofits that you can be a part of to support your community. Before joining, check to see if the structure is set up to generate profits and what its mission is. For me, it’s important that I serve in organizations that give back to the community.
Making contacts in your industry is essential, as you’ll be able to build relationships over time. When starting out, it may be wise to join a single organization that you care deeply about. Over time, you’ll be able to evaluate if you have the bandwidth to join another group or two. Ultimately, you’ll want to make sure the organizations where you connect provide mutual benefits. You’ll be able to dedicate your attention and efforts to these places, providing a level of expertise for their causes and growing your own career at the same time.