Professional and social organizations are groups of people that come together based on a common interest or hobby. Becoming a member in a professional and social organization is a great way to network and connect with people. Typically, professional and social organizations have an online home, such as a website, Facebook page or forum, where communities can share ideas and stay in contact and will hold events to allow their members to interact in-person more frequently. The guide below is meant to provide an overview of the process of joining professional and social organizations in Houston.
First, before delving into the steps for finding and joining professional and social organizations, what are the benefits of joining an organization?
Joining professional organizations – sometimes also called professional associations or societies – are a great way to connect to people with similar work interests and learn about employment opportunities, how your industry of interest is doing in Houston or elsewhere in the country, changes in the industry, and standards. It could also be a good place to sharpen your skills since some organizations offer workshops or training opportunities for their members.
Social organizations can also be a good place to network with people who have similar interests and care about the same things. You can also network while doing something you enjoy, like playing a sport or attending a performance. With social organizations, events are less structured, giving you more freedom and flexibility.
Step 1: Finding Professional and Social Organizations
To find professional organizations, first start by searching for your industry. A good place to start is the CareerOneStop website, https://www.careeronestop.org/businesscenter/professionalassociations/find-professional-associations.aspx, which lets you search for national professional associations by simply typing in the industry you’re interested in. Another helpful resource specific to the Houston area includes the National Business Development Association, which has a list of Houston area professional associations, http://nbda.co/media/files/nbda_network_list.pdf. There are countless resources throughout the internet, including some on blogs, which feature updated lists to professional organizations. For example, see JobStars, http://www.jobstars.com/list-professional-associations/, and VocationVillage, http://www.vocationvillage.com/directory-of-houston-professional-associations/, which offers a list of Houston-area associations.
For social organizations, begin by searching online as well. A good place to start is HoustonService.org, which offers a list of foundations and organizations throughout the city. You can also look into other organizations that you may have an interest in by searching for keywords on Google. Some examples of social organizations include the Arab American Cultural and Community Center, Houston Arts Alliance, or the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.
Another great resource, which is not considered a social organization, but offers informal and much less structured groups for people based on shared interests is MeetUp, https://www.meetup.com/. If you’re not ready to commit to membership in a formal social organization, MeetUp is a good place to start.
Step 2: Learn more about the Professional and Social Organizations
After you do your initial search, visit the websites and read more about the professional and social organizations you’re interested in joining. Try to narrow down your list to the organizations you feel are most significant and interesting to you and your job search. Since many organizations have membership fees, you want to be strategic in your selection process. You may also want to take note of where other people in your field are; for example, many doctors are members of the American Medical Association (AMA).
If it’s a national organization, find out if they have a local branch in Houston and how often they hold events. You don’t want to be in a professional or social organization just for the sake of membership; you want to be able to meet people through these organizations. Also check what types of services they offer and evaluate which services would be most useful to you. For example, if you’re job searching, find out if a professional organization offers resume editing and resume posting services for their members and how often they hold local events where you can network. Most importantly, look at membership fees for both social and professional organizations. Some organizations also send magazines or newsletters about the industry or area of focus. In short, try to get an idea of what services membership would buy you and how often you would utilize them.
Step 3: Join Professional and/or Social Organizations
To join a professional or social organization, determine if there are any eligibility requirements and what membership levels are offered. For example, some professional organizations will have different membership levels depending on if you are a student or a working professional. These membership levels will have different fees and different corresponding services or benefits. Some organizations also require that you fill out a registration form to become a member. This is typically done for professional associations that require a specific degree or educational background.
Step 4: Network
After joining the organization, look at how you can make use of their online resources to connect with people in your field. Don’t just contact people for the sake of contacting them; but do make use of an organization’s online newsletter if they have one, social media pages, and other resources, to stay abreast of upcoming events and to get to know your fellow members better. You may come across a person who works at a company you are interested in learning more about. As always, be courteous and brief when you’re contacting someone, and use your membership in the same organization and shared interest(s) to connect.
For professional organizations, take note of their annual conference and remember to always dress professionally if you attend any events. Use your membership as a resource to connect to others, search employment opportunities, and learn more about your field. You can also include your membership in a professional organization on your resume and LinkedIn profile under the heading “Professional Memberships;” it shows employers that you’re serious and committed to your field.