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The Value of Professional Organizations

In Professional/Networking by martinwaymire

You’ve heard it time and time again – never stop learning. But, it begs the question: How?

Answer: Professional organizations.

As a former skeptic, I get it. It’s hard to imagine adding another commitment to your already busy schedule. However, after a little push, I joined Michigan State University’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter and it was the best decision I made in college.

Many Martin Waymire team members are a part of MSU PRSSA’s parent chapter, Central Michigan Public Relations Society of America (CMPRSA). Yes, PRSSA and CMPRSA are mouthfuls, but they’re worth all the syllables. Why?

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…Networking

I’ve been there. You walk into your first networking event and you can feel everyone’s eyes piercing through your skin. You start to sweat uncontrollably and wish that you brought deodorant with you.

Before you start to psych yourself out, remember: relationships are the cornerstone of public relations — so make them! By attending networking events, you can build meaningful and mutually beneficial connections — both with other PR professionals and people from various industries. Expanding your network opens a variety of doors by allowing you to further educate yourself on the industry and presenting potential growth opportunities.

…Hands On Learning

Professional organizations provide the opportunity to expand your skillset and stay on top of industry trends by offering professional development courses, workshops and seminars.

Recently, MSU PRSSA board members hosted an interactive blog writing seminar. Blogging has emerged as an influential media outlet in the communications industry. The seminar addressed members’ concern over their blog-writing abilities. Through various writing exercises, attendees were able to learn how to blog in a stress-free environment and, before they knew it, had three in-progress blogs.

By taking advantage of the opportunities professional organizations offer, members are able to acquire useful skills in a supportive learning environment rather than frantically trying to learn as they go on the job.

…Travel

Arguably the most underrated aspect of being a member of a professional organization is the opportunity to travel. Each year, PRSA and PRSSA host national conferences in different cities. Through my membership with MSU PRSSA, I’ve had the opportunity to visit cities I’d never been before — Atlanta, Georgia and Austin, Texas.

Traveling has shown me the versatile nature of public relations — and how vast its scope truly is. Not to mention, exploring new places is super fun!

…Mentorship

Many people join a professional organization for mentorship — particularly to be on the receiving end. What about being the mentor? A commonly held belief about the mentor-mentee relationship is that the mentee reaps the majority of the rewards. I disagree.

As a mentor, you learn how to relate to a different audience and push yourself to stay updated on the latest industry changes that may impact a young professional. Young professionals can be mentors, too. I was lucky enough to have two mentors only a year older than me. I’ve found them to be very beneficial as they are only one year removed from the same things am I going through.

…Leadership

“In order to be led, you must know how to lead.”

This expression has stuck with me from the first time I heard it — because it’s true. Effective collaboration hinges on understanding team dynamics. One member may be analytical and list-oriented while another may be less organized but more creative. Varying skills and abilities are useful and important to the overarching goals of the group. Being an effective team member is an acquired (and important!) skill. Join a committee or board in your professional organization and learn how to delegate or be delegated to.

Professional organizations have the unique ability to combine fun, professional development and personal growth for its members. So, join and keep learning!

Danielle Homic is a student practitioner at Martin Waymire and a senior at Michigan State University majoring in advertising with a minor in public relations.

Photo courtesy of CMPRSA