A post from my (Alyse Minter) blog, An Emerging Archivist:
I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by my graduate student organization in Library Science, AGLISS, in which professionals from the library field shared their reflections on professional organizations and how those organizations can have a positive effect on building a career. unfortunately, we didn’t have a very large audience turn out. But nevertheless, I wanted to share a few of the highlights, in case it could be of help to someone.
1. Professional organizations allow you to network. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard so much about networking that perhaps we start to tune out when we hear the n-word. But seriously, professional organizations allow beginning professionals the chance to link up with others who shared their interests and career goals. It can also provide a chance to “shadow” a more experienced professional and learn tips of the trade.
2. Professional organizations allow you the opportunity to build skills in areas that may not be available through your job or practicum/internship. Practicums and internships are wonderful, but they are temporary. You’re usually in a race against the clock to absorb as much as you can before the clock strikes twelve and you return to normal life. Or at least, that’s how it felt at times this summer. Lovely experience, I learned a ton, but it was over so soon. Through professional organizations, for example, you may be able to boost management skills through heading a committee. Speaking of committees, many organizations are eager to have young, fresh individuals as participants. So figure out your interests, and drop an email.
3. Not all professional organizations cost an arm and a leg. Many of us are still perilously close to that “poor, struggling grad student” phase…or we’re just flat-out still in it. Before you despair, check out the local counterparts of national organizations. For example, MARAC may provide a cheaper alternative to SAA and DCLA may be more cost effective than ALA. Also, most professional organizations offer reduced student rates.
4. Local chapters or local organizations provide a more intimate involvement with local professionals, so you will be better able to connect and (get this) network! Also, local chapters will likely host conferences, workshops and events close in vicinity to your state of residence, so it will be easier to attend. That’s not to say you shouldn’t join national organizations. I’m an SAA member and have gotten some great benefits from that membership. Just keep the local organizations in mind, as well. The people you interact with on a local basis, however, will be your colleagues or bosses in a few years, so make yourself known now.
5. Make yourself known now. By being involved in professional organizations, you allow your name and face to be recognized. Because of this, if you commit to something, make sure you’re able to carry it out. It would not be a good thing to gain a reputation as a quitter or a person whose word means nothing. Remember, these are your colleagues and bosses of the near future. Leave a good impression.
6. Of course, you can always put it on your resume. But why stop at just having words on a piece of paper? Try to shape your time now to reflect your future goals. What do you want to do with your career? What steps can you take now to ensure you receive the experience and professional skills necessary to get to your next step? The work force is competitive, so you have to be proactive.
I hope this was helpful to you. I greatly enjoyed hearing from our professionals and count it as well worth my time. Oh, that was my last point: listen to the people who are in the field now. They have good advice. I guess that counts as networking, but you get the point.
Have a great day!