Many people will ask me if it’s “worth it” to pay to join a professional organization related to their career, or their post-graduation career field. Each time my response is the same: It Depends.
It depends upon what that organization is offering you for the price you pay. It depends on whether or not you will be able to certify with them or an affiliate organization to add value to your knowledge and your resume/CV. It depends how their resources are shared and how their network is supported. And of course, the ever present issue of how much are they charging you, and whether or not that investment is a good one at this point in your career.
There are many options out there for us to choose from. Many are free, some also offer paid memberships which grant access to resources and tools otherwise not available to outsiders. All offer the opportunity to network in person and online with similar professionals in their specialized career field. If you want to make the most of each membership and all affiliations, I suggest you do the following:
- Research the organizations online. Most, if not all, offer basic access and ability to attend networking functions without becoming a paying member (or just a one-time event fee for networking events). Attend an event or chat with a member on their bulletin boards or in their chat rooms. Find out what they like and don’t like, or what advantages they’ve experienced from affiliating with this group or organization.
- Find out what certifications or licenses are affiliated with these professional organizations. Are they relevant to your current job, or to the job that you are working towards? Will obtaining this certification or license have a material effect on your ability to promote or earn more money? If the answer is Yes, you might want to look into membership as they often offer discounts on the testing and certification fees and offer “study sessions/materials” for members.* If the answer is No, you might want to do a bit more research on possible additional education units or degrees to enhance your learning and earning potential.
- Look “free” or “low cost” networking opportunities. LinkedIn (and having a superstar profile courtesy of the OC HR Chick) is a great way to network with others in your field, areas of related interest and of course recruiters. Your school alumni group is also a great resource – and you might get to catch up with fellow classmates. Finally, another great low-cost networking resource across the country that I have found is Network After Work. All of these options give users and attendees the opportunity for some grass-roots networking at no to low cost.
Once you’ve checked on your options, be sure to come back to the OC HR Chick and take advantage of our LinkedIn online media profile services located on our Pricing page.