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Career Monday: How To Use Professional Associations To Advance Your Career

Professional associations are a major asset when it comes to staying employed and developing a more rewarding career. See what these organizations can do for you at every stage of your working life.

Professional Association Tips for Students and Entry Level Professionals

1. Receive financial aid. With the costs of higher education continuing to climb, many students are searching for financial assistance. Most professional associations provide scholarships and grants, either directly or through educational foundations. Even better, there may be relatively little competition for these funds because many are unaware that they even exist.

2. Pay reduced dues. Newcomers can usually pay lower dues in their first years because associations are eager to attract promising new talent. Check the website or call the membership office to discover your options.

3. Work with a mentor. It can be difficult to capture the attention of prominent people without some form of introduction. Mingling together at association events can widen your opportunities and introduce you to influential mentors in your field.

4. Research an industry. You can explore an association even while you’re still deciding on your major. Sitting in on a few roundtable luncheons is certainly more cost effective than changing directions during your senior year of college.

Professional Association Tips for Experienced Professionals

1. Apply for senior positions. Executives and recruiters use associations to help fill their talent pool. Building up your visibility can get you noticed when there’s an opportunity to advance.

2. Recruit new employees. Similarly, you may find an association is a good source for filling positions in your department. Through your membership in a professional organization, you can interact with candidates in a setting that’s more natural than a job interview.

3. Choose your specialty. When you’re first starting out, you may find valuable information through a relevant association. Later in your career, you may want to focus on organizations that match your area of specialty and geographical preferences.

4. Negotiate dues with your employer. Annual dues and expenses can add up. Your employer may agree to cover the costs if you convince them of the value. Be prepared with examples about how you’ve been able to use your membership to save your company money, enhance their reputation, expand their customer base, or bring them other benefits.

Professional Association Tips for Any Stage of Your Career

1. Extend your network. For most people, developing positive relationships with colleagues is the greatest benefit of association memberships. Be generous about sharing information and services.

2. Enjoy discounts. Your membership may entitle you and your employer to significant savings and discounts. Check the association website for more information.

3. Engage in advocacy. Many associations lobby to create a favorable government environment for their business. Your efforts are likely to be more effective when you join with others.

4. Access continuing education. You may want to take a workshop on the latest accounting software or meet the speakers at a national conference. Check your association calendar for events that will add to your knowledge and skills.

5. Volunteer your services. There are many different ways to volunteer at associations. You could help write press releases or join the welcoming committee for new members.

6. Share your expertise. Giving presentations or writing a blog post can position you as a subject expert. You’ll also get to meet new people as they ask questions or comment on your materials.

7. Contribute to society. Your association can also guide you through combining your professional and philanthropic activities. Participate in holiday food drives or spend a weekend building affordable housing with other volunteers.

Professional associations provide many valuable opportunities whether you’re starting out or you’ve been working in your field for years. Network with your colleagues and demonstrate the leadership qualities that will help you to stand out in your field.

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