Professional Orgs! What are they good for?

It goes without saying that participation in professional organizations can very well behoove the modern professional. There are many benefits that come with being a member of a professional organization. The most obvious benefit is networking, and networking can help young students and professionals get a foot into the field.

In the last few years of my undergraduate college years, I was lucky enough to be a part of 2 organizations. Since I pursued 2 degrees in Journalism and Photography, then I participated in both the local chapter of Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ); and also National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). I volunteered at the national conference for each professional org, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

While at SPJ conference, I took pictures at the conference; and then all of my photos were published in the conference newspaper. So I was behind the scenes, and attendees saw me out and about. Also, they saw my photos published and my byline. While at the NPPA conference, I soaked up all the workshops, but the best part is being able to talk with the industry front runners. I got some really good advice – “Get a portfolio.” Unfortunately, this advice was “too little, too late.”

Speaking of conferences, there is another one coming close to us; and it is very soon. The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) will have it’s national conference in Albuquerque during the first week of November. Getting involved seemed like a no-brainer for me! I like to think that I have a pretty good scorecard when it comes to volunteering at conferences. This time, I have actively recruited my other fellow first-year students to volunteer with me. This put me in a unique position since I was the only student at our orientation with knowledge of the upcoming conference. I shared the wealth of networking with others. I have checked-in with others to see if they are still willing and able to give some time outside of class. It will be worth it!

So what other benefits can we get out of being a member of a professional organization? We talked about networking. While at the conference, I hope to do a session or two to continue my professional development. While outside the dates of the conference, it is valuable that there are so many continuing education (CE) opportunities. Of course, I am not in need of CEUs right now to put towards a license. However, I am always looking towards something new to learn, or a new perspective to add to a topic in our field.

At this point, we have talked about what we can get out of an organization. However, it is just as important to recognize that as members; one needs to be active and “put into it what they want to get out of it.” Members can “donate” their time for whatever is necessary for the community of the organization. Professionals can always give of their skills. It generally helps the organization keep moving and stay dynamic. Another important contribution is for members to consistently have energy and drive. Finally, members need to donate of whatever money they can, and even help fundraise. Even at the local level, I inquired how my student membership fee is being used. I was told it has be used for our waters, art supplies, and any other common needs.

In conclusion, professional organizations like these are essential to professionals to grow, network, and develop.

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