Is it worth joining a professional association?

Anthony Haynes writes: The above is the question posed in a blog post by Laimoon (‘Is joining a professional association worth the investment?’, Laimoon, 14 May 2014).

Though that post is written specifically concerning chief financial officers (CFOs), its suggestions are generalisable to other professions.

Laimoon posed the above question to Jeffrey C. Thomson and reports that Thomson identified the following benefits of membership (which I have lightly paraphrased):

  1. gaining enhanced credibility;
  2. networking;
  3. attending events (such as conferences);
  4. learning informally through research and articles developed by the association;
  5. learning formally (for example, through gaining professional qualifications);
  6. mentoring;
  7. sharing best practice;
  8. learning of  job opportunities.

I doubt that many professional associations would contest that list, except on grounds of incompleteness.

Let me suggest two further benefits.

First, belonging to a professional body can be confidence enhancing. It can remind you that there are other people out they’re doing the type of work you do and (at least to an extent) experiencing the same situations, behaviours, and responses. And meeting them can help to confirm that it’s all right to find such work interesting and feel it’s important.

Second, one gets reminded.

What I mean by that rather cryptic sentence is this: when we speak of ‘learning’ and of ‘sharing best practice’, typically we think in terms of acquiring new knowledge. That’s fine — professional associations do help their members do this and clearly it’s beneficial. But in my experience, at least, I’ve found that in practice this tends to be less important than being reminded of stuff that matters. Ideas, practices, perspectives, ambitions — things that I have learnt but which, in the daily busy-ness of work, I forget or allow to fall fallow.

Man needs more frequently to be reminded than informed, Dr Johnson said. I presume he meant women too. Associations, when they are forming their programmes and marketing themselves to current and prospective members, tend always to put the emphasis on learning the new. I wonder whether they are missing a trick? Perhaps they should remind themselves, and their members, of the value of being reminded.

PS  A comment by Duncan Grant on the LinkedIn Memcom membership marketing forum has alerted me to this useful summary of membership bodies’ functions:

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