The Promise of Professional
- On-Campus Opportunities
If there is a chapter of a professional organization
on your campus, consider becoming an active member.
Local chapter members of the Society
of Women Engineers plan social, service and educational
events. The American
Student Association has groups that promote professional
development and improving health care at both the pre-med
and medical school level. If you are interested in giving
back to the community, student groups will often plan
volunteer opportunities that use the unique skills of
their members. So a group of future accountants will
do taxes for low-income residents, and the pre-dental
club will make a presentation about good dental hygiene
in local elementary schools. Such projects benefit both
the recipients and the students who are gaining hands-on
- Leadership and Networking
You can gain valuable skills by taking a leadership
position within these organizations. Of course, there
are always elected positions like President and Secretary,
but even if you don't see yourself in one of these larger
are other ways to get more involved. If there is a project
you wish your group would do, offer to chair a committee
to get it accomplished. If you create Web sites in your
free time, volunteer to organize and manage the club
Web site. However, even if you don't have an official
title, don't think that you can't make an impact on
the group. Simply being an active, committed member
who attends meetings and events will help make the organization
strong and allow you to get the most from your membership.
Joining a campus student professional organization
is also a great networking opportunity and a chance
to learn from upper-level students in your field. Do
you want the dirt on the best journalism professors?
Ask the students who
have been there before you. Do your friends and family
just not understand the frustrations you face in your
chosen field? Go to a meeting full of people who can
commiserate with you and offer support and answers.
Is it time to
start your job search? Encourage your organization to
have a resume workshop or a panel of potential employers.
- Conferences and Conventions
Just when you thought you couldn't get more from your
association membership, conventions and conferences
offer untold opportunities. Conference registration
fees are typically reduced for student members. If you're
attending as a member of an on-campus chapter, your
school might even offer assistance in paying for registration
costs. While this is helpful for the travel budget at
all levels, if you live in Wisconsin and attending a
national convention in Orlando is beyond your finances,
a student registration fee for a state conference an
hour away can make it quite a deal for the information
you'll take away. You're sure to find inspiration from
keynote speeches and break-out sessions, pick up some
resources from the exhibition hall and network with
potential future co-workers. Convention and conference
attendees also take away a greater sense of being part
of something larger than themselves - part of a profession.
- Advancing Your Profession
Once you've sensed that you're part of a whole, an intangible
benefit of joining a professional organization is the
potential for advancing your field. In some cases, this
is done on the organizational level with congressional
lobbying or a nationwide campaign to bring new students
into your chosen profession. At other times, it's much
more personal and means that you are contributing ideas
and engaging in dialogues that will change the face
of teaching or architecture or whatever your passion
Overall, when you add up the advantages, it's easy to
see why there should be a place for membership dues
in your educational budget. How else can you learn from
professionals in your field, make valuable contacts,
resume, and become part of a larger community for less
than the cost of many textbooks?
|How to Find Professional
Organizations in Your Field of Study
- Since there are thousands of professional organizations
available, the easiest way to find organizations
is to look for a campus chapter of an organization
in your field of study.
on the Net .
The Internet Public Library provides an online
directory of organizations.
Society of Association Executives.
Offers a comprehensive directory of business and
Published by Gale Research, the Encyclopedia
of Associations (EOA) lists indepth descriptions
of local, state, national, and regional membership
organizations in all fields. Check your library
for a copy.
Lorie Witkop graduated with a B.A. in English from
Michigan State University and later completed an MA in
Education from the same school. Certified to teach high
school English and Spanish, she joined several education-related
professional organizations during her time as a student.