Professional membership is basically a subscription to a professional organisation. Most professional sectors have at least one organisation that provides services to support professionals who work in that field — Engineers Australia and the Australian Computer Society are both good examples. If you’re not sure if your industry has one of these, a quick search online will usually do the trick.
These professional organisations promote quality standards and professional development within the field and offer members activities and services. Generally they offer student membership at a reduced rate with access to an extensive range of services.
The benefits of professional membership will vary from one organisation to another but typically include the following:
Professional organisations often require membership applicants to meet minimum quality standards (such as minimum qualification levels, the completion of industry-approved courses, meeting work experience requirements or passing competency tests). This means that by communicating that you have a professional membership you also indicate to employers that you are accredited by the industry. Membership also shows that you are serious about your field and committed to a long-term career, which is something that your employers will value. In some professional fields (architecture, for example), registration and membership with your industry body may even be a requirement to practise.
This includes access to specific events and training that provide opportunities for learning that are specific to your profession and assist in keeping your skills current.
You’ll find that most organisations run events and activities that allow professional colleagues to network, which will enhance your career-based opportunities in the field.
Many organisations distribute member newsletters that provide information about events and activities (including conferences and professional networking events) and general news about the state of the industry.
Gaining professional membership gives you the opportunity to participate in two-way discussions with experienced people about professional issues and to have your own thoughts heard and clarified. Look out for forums and groups on social networks (LinkedIn, in particular) where you will be able to converse with fellow members.
A range of different services may also be offered, such as professional indemnity and public liability insurance. Additional benefits such as discounts on conferences, professional services, travel and accommodation may also be available.
The fact that you have sought out and subscribed to your own professional organisation adds value to your résumé, as it is an indication of your commitment as a professional. The benefit is not just in joining, but also in actively participating and taking advantage of the services offered.
You should try to participate in networking to understand career opportunities and organisational structures. Present yourself professionally and positively to people who may be potential employers. Commence a process of networking that you will continue to maintain throughout your career in order to realise your goals, and remain connected to your profession — always viewing yourself as a professional.
It’s also important that you try to remain relevant to your profession by committing to continuous learning and keeping updated with the most recent knowledge, research and career opinions. If you can, try to contribute to forums and present and discuss your own ideas, thoughts and findings.
You’ll also find that many professional organisations offer a mentoring service to students. At all levels of your career, it is a positive move to engage with a mentor with whom you can readily discuss matters concerning your professional life. Identify a member of the professional organisation who you can model yourself on — a person who has made a significant contribution in his/her career and who has achieved success in a manner that matches your values and beliefs.