Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Professional Associations — When To Join and When To Quit

Professional groups and associations can have value.

If you are building a career and want to develop professionally you can benefit from becoming part of groups and associations that focus on your interests.

If you want to develop colleagues and friendships, membership in associations and groups can provide a professional community with which you can interact.  Such memberships are also useful if you want to contribute to a body of knowledge and use that knowledge to improve your profession,

  • You will be more likely to keep up with trends and training, as well as have access to conferences, seminars, and certification programs.
  • If you attend meetings you can get information and make contacts that might be useful.
  • If your group is primarily long distance, you may receive benefits of being part of the group without going to meetings at all.
  • Your active participation can help you gain other skills.
  • You may receive useful written material, magazines and books.
  • Your membership may indicate a level of professional status that is beneficial.
  • You can list your membership on resumes and discuss it in interviews, to show that you are staying current and active.
  • You can represent your organization positively through your activities.

 Some things to consider before joining a group or association.

1. Is there value in it for you, or are you only joining to say you are a member? Few groups are so prestigious that you should spend money or time unnecessarily. If you are only joining to have the membership on your resume–or a lapel pin to wear–think twice. I’ve never been aware of someone who was picked for a position or who scored higher on a process, simply because he or she was a member of the International Association of High Powered People, or some such thing.  

If you really don’t want to join, but you are thinking about it because a very nice person wants to sponsor you–say no. Not, “Maybe.” Simply say, “Thank you for asking me, but I have so many other things to do I can barely breathe right now! I swear, even one more ounce of pressure and I’m liable to have a nervous breakdown just like the one I had last year. As it is, I sometimes feel like crying, I am so stressed about how much I have on my calendar and in my life. I hope you understand.”

OK. That might be extreme. But, you get the idea.  

2. If you have to pay for it yourself might you consider it differently than if your organization will be paying for it? Just because you can get it approved does not mean you should spend the money. It smacks of being unethical to join a group merely to get an annual conference/vacation paid for by your organization. (As in the case of the person who joined, quit and rejoined groups based on where their international conferences were being held.)

There can be value in moving memberships between associations every year or two if you want to gain several perspectives or contact lists. You may find one is preferable and stick with it.

3. Are you joining mostly to get the magazine or to find out about training, rather than for interacting with people? If so, see if you can subscribe to the magazine without being a member. Or, check out the organization’s website regularly to find out about conferences or training. A magazine subscription is a lot less expensive than a full membership just to get the magazine!

4. If it is local, will you attend enough meetings to be a contributing member? If you don’t intend to participate, maybe you should not join. Or, join as an associate member if that is available. If you do not participate someone on the “Let’s Get Everyone Involved” Committee will contact you regularly about it–which is irritating to you and them both.

5. Will meetings and activities create more pressure in your worklife or result in work being affected? Even if you decide to join, it is not necessary to become the secretary, president or board member right away–or ever. Do not let membership create more pressure in your life. Rarely does the business of an association have a lasting impact on very many things. (A cynical, but true, statement!)

When it is time to quit a professional group or association:

  • (If the group meets locally.) You dread going to meetings and welcome reasons to not go.
  • (If the group does not meet locally) Months go by without you opening the mail from them.
  • You resent the money you are spending–or you cannot afford it in the first place.
  • You cannot list more than one or two things you have gotten from membership in the last year.
  • You cannot list more than one or two things you have contributed in the last year.
  • It has so little value to you that you would not put it on a resume or mention it in an interview.

Final thought: Research the groups or clubs that could benefit you in your professional development and consider joining them. They can have value in many ways. However, keep in mind that your time, money, energy and interests are limited. Only join groups that add to your professional development significantly. Look for groups where you enjoy other members and are proud to say you are part of it. Then, be an active member who not only gets something from the group, but gives back as well.

July 15th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments