Monday, March 11, 2013

Are Professional Associations Worth the Money?

You are considering the option of joining a professional association, but before you pay the fee, you want to make sure that it's going to be worth it.  Here are some factors to consider:

Is membership in the association a requirement or a strong asset for your target position?  Review job advertisements and see whether or not the association is mentioned.  It is also a good idea to talk to people who work in your field to get their input.  If you don't know anyone who works in your industry, post a question in a LinkedIn group and see what responses you receive. 

Would you make use of the learning opportunities?  Professional associations provide a multitude of learning opportunities including conferences, workshops, seminars, and industry publications.  Be honest with yourself; will you attend these sessions?  Will you read the literature? While they are great opportunities to expand your knowledge, if you know that you wouldn't make use of them, then they are really just a waste of money. 

How much does it cost?  Membership in professional associations can range from $75 to well over $500.  Find out the cost and determine if you can fit it into your budget.  If it's going to leave you eating canned beans for three weeks, then it had better be offering some excellent benefits.

Would you volunteer, join the board of directors and make use of networking opportunities?  The best way to network in professional associations is through volunteer work.  While most professional associations do offer networking events, by volunteering or serving on the board of directors, you are able to form professional relationships that could potentially lead to job opportunities.  Do you have time for this type of volunteer work in your schedule?    If so, you are much more likely to benefit from your membership in the association. 

Does your resume need a boost?  If you are trying to break into a new industry, membership in a professional association may add some needed credibility to your resume.  However, if you already have a great deal of experience working in your field, it may be unnecessary.   

Does the professional association offer high quality job leads?  While most professional associations offer some form of job leads, they vary significantly in terms of quality.  For example, while one job board may have a list of fifteen current and local job advertisements, another one may just have three to five postings that are more than three weeks old.  Also, some associations pull their job postings from other job sites, while others are advertised exclusively on the association's website.  Talk to members of the association to ask about the quality of their job board.  You can even ask the membership department if they will allow you temporarily access it so that you can take a look on your own. 

Depending on how you use your membership, professional associations can be either a great investment, or a complete waste of time and money.  Take the time to do the research, and make the decision that's best for you.   


(Photo from:  Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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