by Rachel Vilsack
Joining a professional association is a great way to connect with professionals in your chosen career field and network with employers. Getting involved with a group will help you stay up-to-date on industry or occupation trends during your job search.
Professional associations can be formal nonprofit organizations with a board of directors or an informal group that meets over coffee. Regardless of their size, most professional associations often offer member opportunities to:
- Attend meetings and events
- Volunteer and attend professional development opportunities
- View job boards and position announcements from member organizations
- Learn more about careers and educational guidance
- Join discussion lists and online social networking groups
Professional associations are also a good resource if you want to conduct an informational interview with someone in a specific profession or industry. Some organizations will list members on their website, especially those that hold leadership positions.
There are many online resources to help job seekers identify professional associations, both nationally and here in Minnesota. Here are some website resources to explore:
- Gateway to Associations Directory – The Center for Association Leadership website offers a national professional association look-up tool. Customize your search to your city, state, or region.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – This national career handbook provides great information, such as job descriptions, wages, employment outlooks, and lists national professional associations for each career field.
- Directory of Minnesota Business and Professional Associations (.pdf) – Compiled by the James J. Hill Reference Library, this resource provides an extensive list of professional organizations based in Minnesota.
- Many professional associations also have an online networking presence on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Many professional associations require a membership fee, so do your homework before joining. If you are interested in a specific organization, check with them to see if they will allow you to attend one meeting for free or at a reduced cost.
Rachel Vilsack (Rachel.Vilsack@state.mn.us) is a regional labor market analyst with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.