To be or not to be … Join a professional association?

I confess. I let it get to me. Then it became a root of bitterness.

And today? I think the fog is lifting and I’m realizing that where I was and what I felt was more about me than “them.”

The story is this. I spent almost two decades actively involved in an association of professional communicators. I worked my tail off, volunteered and worked to do my best at every job I took on. I loved being part of the membership team, leading board members and taking pride in the group’s 300-member organization. It’s humbling to think of this privilege. It was, indeed, a privilege to work with so many talented people. And then somehow—in my stressed-out brain— I saw the group change. I essentially walked away, mumbling and grumbling. No membership renewal for me, thank you very much.

Today, total regret.

So what can you learn from my experience? First, don’t let stress, anxiety and busyness distort your reality. Make sure your “what is” is real” not Memorex. Also recognize that associations are full of people. That always means incredible results but also incredible differences, temperaments and intentions.

To Join Or Not?

Ready to shell out a few hundred bucks? Ready to advance your career? Ready to create relationships that can last a lifetime? Ready to face people that get on your last nerve?

The unequivocal answer is YES if:

  • You choose to participate, be active and contribute
  • Your intentions are to receive and give. Don’t join just to add to your resume or show up to win awards (There are WAY too many of those … You know who you are).
  • You desire peers who can be mentors and colleagues. These men and women are the ones who influence who hires you, or become those you hire. Active members know who is in it for themselves vs. those ready to contribute. Classic sign #1: A long-time but ever-absent member—or former member—suddenly gets friendly, shows up for every event, starts helping out. It’s obvious. They’ve been laid off and need job leads.
  • You want to grow professionally. That means education as well as connections with other professionals. Scary, but let’s do a little math (not our forte as creative types.) Example? You’re an active member of an association that meets every month. You attend every one, which means you’ve spent two hours a month at a luncheon of 50 people per luncheon. That equals the potential to meet 50 business colleagues every month. That’s 600 contacts a year. What’s more staggering?It’s much more than that! You’re really meeting 12,500 contacts every year. I’ll explain this the next bullet below.
  • If you want to commit and volunteer. More math. What if you volunteered five or six hours a month and worked with five other committee members? That’s 60 hours a year with five other smart and connected professional communicators. You’re building deep relationships. KEY POINT regarding your committee colleagues and luncheon buddies: Every person you know has his or her own sphere of influence. That sphere per person is typically about 250 people. So:
    • Five committee members with “the sphere of 250” equals 1,250 you could potentially meet and know.
    • For luncheons? Take your 50 luncheon attendees, multiply them by 12 luncheon meetings and you get 12,500. I
    • The numbers–and opportunities–are staggering. Just by attending meetings and volunteering, you have access (potentially) to 13,750 people who could hire you or work for you. Hellooooo.
    • KEY POINT  #2: This requires an association of members that understands the practice of giving. As Genie Fuller, president of CEO Partners, says, “What you give to others, you get in return, 10-fold.”

The bottom line: Join. Jump in. Or sit in the lonely garden and watch “The Shriveling Career Vine” grow. Get stale. Stay lonely.

No.

Get a step up, engage and attend those meetings. Don’t forget to volunteer.

And when people disappoint or frustrate, face it. Accept it. And forgive it. Your career depends on it. Mine too.

One last note to the men and women of that association I grumbled and mumbled about? I’m sorry. Please forgive the shortsightedness. I’m on the road. I’ll see you soon.

The PRactical PR Guy

ASSOCIATIONS  WEBSITES
 IABC DALLAS$287/year plus $40 application fee  http://www.iabcdallas.com
 PRSA DALLAS$290/year  https://www.prsadallas.org/
 NATIONAL INVESTOR
RELATIONS ASSOCIATION
$475/year plus $150 application fee
 http://tiny.cc/9yzen
 TEXAS PUBLIC RELATIONS
ASSOCIATION
$125/year
 http://www.tpra.com
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