I wrote previously about the benefits of joining a membership organization. You have the ability to network with peers and potential mentors and to receive members-only continuing education opportunities. Also, membership organizations can offer you the chance to hold positions and make important decisions that you may not be able to make in your current work role.
There are a variety of membership organizations, including fraternities and sororities, alumni associations, community organizations and industry-specific organizations like the National Association of Government Communicators and the National Association of Black Engineers.
In many workplaces, there are constraints or rules that limit an employee’s ability to try tasks outside of their job description or to perform duties that a higher-ranking employee performs.
Within membership organizations, however, exist professional development opportunities where the only qualification is a willingness to step up and do it.
Take a look at some other benefits of lending your time and experience to an organization:
- Leadership. There are committees and initiatives that could use your skill set. Depending on the need and your background, you may have an opportunity to serve in a leadership role.
- Event planning. Every organization has meetings, virtual or on-site. You can volunteer to create agendas and presentations, coordinate speakers or even help set up IT equipment.
- Project management. Have an idea to improve a function or process or bring in new members? Pitch it and volunteer to lead it. Whether you’re an experienced project manager already or just want the practice, heading an initiative or project is a great way to hone those skills.
- Continuing education. Many organizations offer free or discounted rates to attend on-site and virtual training like webinars. Organizations want to offer you value and they work with vendors to provide relevant training to meet your needs and interests.
Here are some tips to make the most of your membership:
- Attend the meetings. The more the merrier. Showing up to your organization’s meetings and events helps boost the morale of your fellow members, shows those in leadership that you’re a part of the team and keeps you up-to-date on topics and issues of interest to you.
- Sign-up to help. If you’re a member of a community service-oriented organization, then you understand the importance of volunteering to help carry out the organization’s functions. Whether it’s volunteering to send the weekly email blasts or to staff a table at an event, your time is helping the cause.
- Meet and greet. Attending meetings is great, but walking around and making yourself seen will maximize your time. Introduce yourself to your fellow members and learn what they do and why they joined. You never know who you might meet.
- Establish your credentials. I’ll use myself for this example. When preparing for a government writer’s conference a few years ago, I found myself without an employer-provided business card and impressive job title. Undeterred, I created my own. Thanks, Vistaprint. I didn’t lie about my job, of course. I simply created a card that introduced myself as a “communications professional” (which I was) and included my Linkedin, website and other social media platforms.
- Promote your organization. If your organization produces web content, share it. Help them spread the word of what they are doing. Not only do you get to serve as a brand ambassador for the organization, but you show your commitment to the organization and establish yourself more firmly in your professional community.
What you get out of your organization depends on you. It can be a win-win if you’re willing to put in the work to help the organization grow and get better. Don’t join an organization because it’s popular and will look good on your resume. Research what they do, what they want to do and how you can help further their goals.
While professional development is always a priority, look first at what you can do for the group. That passion to want to do the work is what will get you noticed and on the path to gaining the experience you can use to advance your personal and professional pursuits.
Jennifer Singleton is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.
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