Friday, November 5, 2010

Professional Societies: Where's My Generation?

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Construction Writers Association’s annual conference in Chicago. I joined CWA in 2006 while working in the corporate communications department of a large general contracting firm. I continued my membership to stay on top of industry happenings. More importantly, I find that the in-person networking opportunities it offers complement its social media counterpart, and often are more valuable.

At this year’s meeting, I noticed that I was one of the youngest attendees. I serve on CWA’s membership committee, and recruiting young professionals is one of our challenges, just like for many other groups.

To those young professionals, regardless of the field, who dismiss associations because you feel you can get the same networking benefits via Facebook or Twitter for free, I urge you to reconsider. While I follow my CWA colleagues on social media, I feel that face-to-face meetings provide more meaningful exchanges and insight.

Professional associations offer opportunities to network both informally and formally. Networking receptions remind me of the importance of honing one’s interpersonal communications skills. Informal networking helps me understand the industry and the latest trends. The more I learn, the better prepared I am to help my clients communicate effectively in this industry.

Finally, joining a professional society has provided me with opportunities to grow professionally. There are numerous leadership opportunities. Just offer to volunteer for a committee or task group. Trust me, no one is going to turn you down.

This year, I had the opportunity to speak during the conference. It pushed me to practice (over and over again) what our firm preaches to our clients about PowerPoint and public speaking.

While social networking is a great tool, professional societies provide an important way to build connections. How do I know to follow you on Twitter if I’ve never met you online or in person?

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