6 Reasons to belong to a Professional Association like IABC
As the 2017-2018 President of IABC’s BC chapter you might expect that I should sell you on becoming a member of IABC/BC, and well, that’s partially true, but not for the reasons you might think. Here, I’d like to explain how belonging to this amazing group of communication professionals has helped me in my own career, and how it can help you (spoiler alert: the sooner you join, even as a student, the sooner you can begin earning from your investment).
Everyone who joins IABC or connects with us will have a different experience. This is mine, but ask any of our Board Members and they too will have stories about how being a member has helped them in their careers.
I’ve boiled my experience down to six main reasons. They happen to collate into what my definition is for what it means to BELONG to a professional association, like IABC.
My 6 Reasons:
1) Belong. It’s simple, no matter your profession, I believe it is critical to belong to a group of like-minded professionals as part of your career path. Accountants, lawyers, pharmacists all have one, and so do communicators – we are the International Association of Business Communicators. Belonging to a group of peers that can relate to what you’re experiencing in your career, at all levels and specialties, is truly priceless. Meeting in your school program or on the job is one thing, but sometimes you need another group that’s not biased to your employer, or elsewhere that you can connect with. I’ve found that being a part of IABC has helped to validate what I know instinctively or learned online and then what to experience, and it’s great to hear others are in the same boat. This is especially true if you’re part of a small team or are a team of one at a company, or if you’re a consultant or a new freelancer, you want to be here. We are your team and you belong here.
2) Experience. Through volunteering with your professional association, you gain experience that you can include on your resume and make contacts that might even become a reference for you. Volunteering with your professional association is a safe place to learn. We are volunteer run so we rely on volunteers to make our programs and events happen so there are always many opportunities to get involved. I’ve been on the Board of Directors for three years now to help lead the chapter, and prior to that I was an Event Manager. The former experience helped me make life-long contacts and I learned best practices in setting up events, working with sponsors, communication planning, and more. I believe that volunteering is the best way to gain the most value in your membership too and you can volunteer for an unlimited amount of time when you’re a member. When you’re getting to know our association, you can volunteer for up to 6 months as well, before even committing to membership.
For me, I’ve gained leadership experience too, through an opportunity to step up to our Board of Directors. I’ve gained experience beyond communications, leading this chapter is about running a business and that includes financial management, sponsorship, people (v0lunteer) management, and so much more. My personal mantra is that you get what you give, and I’ve chosen to give to my career and profession through IABC and the return on my invested time has been priceless.
3) Life Lessons as a Volunteer. In the eight years of my membership, I have learned a lot about life, myself and working with others, etc. Through volunteering and attending events, I am better able to define my own work style and leadership style, and understand what being a professional really means to me. I’ve participated in our mentorship program and learned what having a mentor can do for your career, working with others to gain their trust and respect and even earn a work reference. I’ve also learned about what I don’t like, how my workstyle differs from others and how that might transfer in the workplace.
4) Opportunities. Honestly, there are too many to highlight in this one post! From building your network in a professional association the opportunities that may cross your path are endless:
- Learn from others at networking events
- Grow your skills at a speaker event
- Give back to the community through programs like our Gift of Communication
- Mentor others as senior members and give back to new communicators
- Targeted job opportunities for communicators are shared on our website weekly
- Certification programs to add further credibility to our professions
- And more…
5) Networking. For many, this is the obvious one. You join an association to network and meet others, and that’s 100% accurate. Networking for me is more than about coming out to our social events though, while they are really important, networking is also about staying in touch, and following one another. LinkedIn is a very powerful tool and space, and I take pride in growing my network in person and online. Meeting and volunteering with someone from six years ago, I work at keeping in touch when I can, because sometimes those connections come in handy when looking for work or helping another friend too. Not only has building my network been of value to me, it’s been of value to those in my network. I have helped others connect to new job opportunities, explore the world of freelance work, and more. This is part of what I enjoy about networking, it’s giving back and helping to elevate others (at IABC/BC we call this being a vibrant connector).
6) Good Times. This is a bonus. Not only do you get all of the above when you belong to a professional association, but you also enjoy a lot of good times. You can make great friendships and often, we have beer and wine too! Natural to any group of like-minded peers, you tend to get along and may bond in ways that are outside of the profession.
We are just at the start of the IABC/BC year and have so much in store for the next few months and into the spring. I hope you’ll join us and become a member.
If you want to hear more about my experience as an IABC/BC member, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to connect with you over coffee.
Bonus. If you’re interested in becoming an IABC/BC member: October is a great month to join because it’s Member Month! Learn more about the financial savings and benefits of joining in October 2017 here.