Should you belong to a professional association? If you want to get ahead in your career, the answer is “yes,” according to Stephen L. Lamb, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Chicago. “Association membership has incredible benefits for ambitious, career-oriented businesspeople,” Lamb said.

As a tireless advocate of associations, Lamb is well-versed in the advantages of membership. This year, he was recognized for his efforts in association work by the Association Forum of Chicagoland. The Forum selected him as the recipient of the 2008 John C. Thiel Distinguished Service Award, which is given to Forum volunteers who have demonstrated long-term, multi-faceted leadership.

Solving Career Concerns
Lamb believes that belonging to an association can help members in a variety of ways.

 

“As the saying goes, ‘No man is an island.’” he said. “Business people do not thrive when they are isolated from colleagues. Regular interaction leads to learning, personal growth and career progression.”


Lamb noted that the following career concerns can often be resolved through association membership:

Stuck in Limbo: Is your career making little or no progress? Interacting with others in your profession could be the answer. “An association might offer workshops on how to advance in your career,” Lamb said. “Or, it may be time to seek a new employer. You can make connections through association functions that could lead to a better position with a different company.”

No One to Ask: If you are self-employed, or a part of a small department at your workplace, there may be times when you would like to know the opinion of others in your position. “Your employer or clients look to you as an expert in your field,” Lamb said, “but there are times when even an expert can use some good advice. Many associations have online message boards where members can ask each other questions or discuss various important topics.”

Reinventing the Wheel: Are you ever frustrated with ineffective or convoluted processes in your workplace? With time and patience, you might come up with an easier way – but why reinvent the wheel? By talking with peers in an association, you can learn about solutions that others in your industry have already discovered. “An association can provide educational opportunities to help you with difficulties in your workplace. You can also find answers simply by talking with other members at association functions,” Lamb noted.

Is Anybody Out There?: Are there aspects of your field or industry that you wish you could change? If so, joining an association would give you a forum for changing those unfavorable aspects. “You may find that many others feel the same way as you,” Lamb said, “and when you unite and collaborate with them, your combined voices can make a difference.”

 

Providing Members with Value
Lamb also has advice for association organizers who wish to see an increase in membership numbers. “An association needs to be more than just a social club,” he said. “Associations have a responsibility to deliver value to their members, who see every dollar they pay in dues as an investment in their future.”