In this age, when knowledge and information are king, and social infrastructure platforms are proliferating, professional membership organizations are becoming even more essential to the progress and professional development of public relations and communications professionals. With credit to American Express, membership has its privileges and rewards and membership organizations are a quick means to building a network.
The fact is that one’s professional network is the currency of today’s knowledge-based society. A strong network has many benefits that span career advancement, benchmarking, job performance, effective crisis management, on-the-job problem solving and a myriad of other factors where it pays to have a broad, deep and wide network of people with whom to collaborate and knowledge share.
One other interesting fact to consider: In today’s job market, roughly 70-80 percent of people who are landing jobs are doing so as a result of their networks. So it is both wise and prudent to have and maintain a network and be part of something bigger than “us.” My recommendation is to look at joining organizations that reflect your professional interests and aspirations. By joining, you have reason and rationale to stay in touch.
Here are some thoughts to consider regarding membership organizations and networks:
- Membership organizations are one of the best means of developing and building a network. For example, the Public Relations Society of America, with more than 21,000 members, is the world’s largest organization of public relations professionals. Being a member of PRSA is tantamount to an instant network where you have access to an extensive array of resources, including one of the most employed job centers in public relations.
- Institutionalize your network. If you have not already done so, consider using Linkedin or Facebook to “hard wire” your network and those you meet in your membership associations. Employing such platforms is efficient. You never (or rarely) will need to track down the whereabouts of a friend or former colleague. The platform typically is self-regulating and updating. No need to comb the Web to find your contact’s latest job or whereabouts. Another benefit is the capability to unobtrusively and instantly communicate your presence and needs.
- Networking means both connecting and collaborating with people in many channels and environments. To insure that colleagues get to know you well, it is important to meet face-to-face and not merely via Facebook or Twitter. Seeing the “cut of your jib” is an essential means to get folks to know and understand you, witness your character and appreciate what are your abilities and personality.
- Invite every person with whom you come in contact to join your network on your preferred platform. Even if you only met the person once, you never know when that one spark will flare up with a remembrance of you, particularly as a potential job candidate.
- Reach out and help someone. Networking is a two-way street. Networks operate effectively if you use them to help others as well as to ask for help.
- Go pro bono. Use your time and resources to help and become a member of a local non-profit. There likely are several non-profits in your town that could benefit from your experience and abilities. Volunteering is also a great way to build your network.
There are many privileges and rewards to PRSA membership that often get overlooked. Think of membership as career insurance. In the case of PRSA, it amounts to about 61 cents a day, rising only to 70 cents a day with the proposed dues increase. If you think about it, it is a small price to pay for more than 50 benefits offered to every PRSA member.