Are Professional Organizations Ruining Your Career or Business?

Professional OrganizationBy Kathy Rembisz

We all know and appreciate the importance of involvement in professional organizations. But, did you ever think membership in these organizations might be counter-productive to your business or career? While the notion might sound illogical, in certain instances it can be true.

Read on for ways to effectively utilize time management skills when considering professional groups.

Choose your professional affiliations wisely.

Focus on organizations that align with your personal and professional goals. Be cautious of those groups that sap your time and energy, offering little in return.

As a new freelance writer, I was eager to join a local writer’s group, which I thought would be helpful in a variety of ways—networking with other writers, learning of freelance opportunities and offering a sounding board for my work, to name a few. Yet, my experience with my local group turned out to be quite a disappointment. Not only was it an overly critical, unsupportive group, but members also started stealing ideas and work from one another. I quickly cut ties with the group. Now, one of the professional organizations I belong to is the International Center for Journalists, a quality organization that provides me with a wealth of information, from job opportunities and fellowships to online classes and free webinars.

Limit your membership in professional organizations.

Are you starting to spend more time involved with professional organizations — attending meetings, sitting on committees, and working on special events — and having difficulty finding enough time for your paid work? That’s a good sign you’re involved in too many professional organizations.

Good time management skills involve knowing your limits, especially when it comes to volunteer opportunities. A good rule of thumb: pick a maximum of two or three quality organizations to join and stick with them.

Beware of the misconception that professional organizations make you look successful.

In fact, the opposite could actually hold true.

When I was the editor of a regional magazine, freelance writers often submitted resumes with tons of professional organizations listed. These same writers often had very few samples of actual work, leading me to believe they were spending more time involved in organizations than actually writing. While I understand individuals breaking into a field might compensate for their lack of experience by joining organizations, involvement in professional groups can also be a creative way to avoid working. In other cases, it might be a way to dodge the tedious task of actually looking for work. In any event, it’s a trap you should avoid falling into.

Don’t replace marketing your business with involvement in professional organizations.

If you’re involved in too many organizations with the idea that business will merely come to you, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. While many professional associations are worthwhile, offering great information, networking opportunities and possibly new business, involvement in groups should not replace your normal marketing efforts. Calculate the time you’ll spend involved in associations, knowing that you’ll still need to market your business in other ways. Then decide if you have the extra time to commit to these groups.

A good rule of thumb for professional organizations.

  • Know how and when to say no. Every organization and opportunity isn’t for you.
  • Evaluate an organization. Before you join, assess if a group will meet your needs. After you’ve been involved for six months, appraise if it’s a good place to put your efforts. Be wary of wasting too much time with a group if it’s merely sapping time and energy.
  • Ask others. Thinking of joining a particular group? Ask other professionals of their experience, whether good or bad. While everyone has their own opinion regarding what constitutes a worthwhile use of time, you will usually hear if a group has a bad reputation.

Do you have ideas about professional organizations you’d like to share? Feel free to do so.

Kathy Rembisz is an award-winning writer with hundreds of articles, both online and in print, to her name. She also has experience as the editor of a glossy regional publication. She is the author of the children’s picture book, Hair, Hair Everywhere! and frequently speaks to students at schools, libraries and community centers about reading and writing. As a regular blogger, special areas of interest to Kathy include: health and wellness topics, pets and small business development. You can find her at Before her career in journalism, Kathy started a practice management company, offering medical billing, public relations and staff development services to healthcare practices. In addition, she has a strong background in healthcare sales and marketing. Finally, as an individual with celiac disease and a whole host of food allergies, Kathy is a gluten- and allergen-free baker and former restaurant co-owner.

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