Why YOU Should Get Involved in Professional Organizations and Where to Start

Many students are unsure of the purpose of professional organizations or why to get involved.  The large number of organizations and many hard-to-remember acronyms don’t help make the process of getting involved any easier either.  However, there are many benefits for joining professional organizations as a student or even while working in pursuit of a different position for the future.  For example, getting involved in professional organizations can help you to meet people in your field, provide opportunities for you to volunteer for agencies or organizations in your field. For more on benefits to joining professional organizations, see 5 Reasons College Students Should be Involved in Professional Organizations – Mashable.

When you decide to start getting involved, you really will want to maximize the time and energy you spend to gain the most from your involvement.  Begin by choosing an organization that fits within your field and is relevant to your career goalsThen, volunteer for activities within the organization that will help you develop the skills you need to get the job you want or into the program you want.   It’s important to contribute to the organization’s mission and activities, but don’t forget about YOU and why you wanted to get involved in the first place.  The time and effort you spend in organizations should ultimately help you gain the skills you need for your future, connect with others in your field, and provide evidence of your work ethic and dedication on your resume or CV.

Don’t make the easy, sometimes tempting, mistake of joining and paying membership dues for many organizations but never attending a meeting or getting involved.  That list of organizations on your resume or CV and the money you paid to join won’t do you any good unless you actually make connections and gain skills and leadership potential through ACTIVE involvement.  Your resume or CV and interview responses will be more impressive if you can share specific contributions you made to the organization and how your involvement has facilitated your own professional development.  Start small by signing up and making a commitment to attend the meetings.  Then, increase your involvement as you learn the ropes by joining subcommittees, chairing subcommittees, and eventually working your way up to board positions.  Being an ACTIVE member will show your dedication to your field and your professional potential to future employers and program directors.

Interested in joining a professional organization but not sure where to start?  Many national organizations have local chapters within universities or colleges that can help you get your feet wet.  Connect with a career center on a university of college campus to see what organizations are relevant to your career path.  A quick search on Google or through your campus website can also connect you with organizations.  If you’re not a student, ask your coworkers what organizations they’re involved in to get some ideas.  You can find many organizations at the local, state, national, and even international levels!  The key is to find the right fit for YOU in terms of the activities you’ll participate in and the skills and knowledge you’ll gain. If you are a family and consumer sciences’ student, see your “area of study” on the family and consumer sciences page for a list of professional associations you can get involved with.

About Kimi Crossman

Kimberly Crossman has a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Florida State University, a Master’s in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and currently is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Human and Community Development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Although her research focuses primarily on experiences of intimate partner abuse, gender relations, and the divorce/separation process, she has also developed a strong interest in mentoring young adults in their career aspirations. Kimberly has led discussions and activities with young adults who are pursuing a graduate-level education or careers in the social sciences through her work as a graduate teaching assistant and board member for local, state, and national organizations. These discussions have inspired Kimberly to take on a more active role in helping young adults identify and meet their goals within and outside the university setting by contributing to Career Skillet.

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