Students and colleagues who know me know that I am an advocate for joining professional associations. I am a member of several of them, ARNOVA, ASPA, SAJA, among others. As a grad student, I initially was reluctant and during my master’s program didn’t really see the value of joining one. But once I started my doctoral education, I realized that was a mistake. Depending on your field of study, there is usually one (or perhaps more) professional association. Check with your professors and friends on recommendations if you don’t know where to start.
Here are five reasons why you should join a professional association. Note the use of word “should,” I don’t use that lightly.
- Grow your academic and intellectual breadth: All academic and professional programs are limited in scope. No matter how brilliant you are and how smart your advisors are, there is only so much time in a structured academic setting. Joining a professional network helps you grow your academic network, learn about the latest in research and praxis. This is akin to stepping our of your own comfort zone. For instance, scholars who are at your school may be steeped in a particular intellectual tradition or way of thinking. Professional networks expose you to the “outside” world and expand your horizons
- Find mentors – You can certainly find folks who have been there and done that. It helps to find mentors who are willing to help you grow and succeed. We all need this, at every stage of our careers
- Find your next job – This has been true for me. I have benefited immensely from my involvement in professional associations in the past. At least two jobs and several other opportunities have come my way because of my networking at such meetings/ conferences
- Find your community – Finding your community can mean finding your niche, a set of people who understand your world-view and your perspectives. This is crucial as a student and as a scholar. Don’t under-estimate this
- Make friends – Yes, this is last, but not necessarily the least. I have friends from all over the world, thanks to conferences, other opportunities to engage and learn from others.