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The Value of Joining Professional Organizations

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When I was in college as an undergraduate and graduate student, I slipped into, quite naturally, the role of the stereotypical writer/creative type. It was a role that was comfortable and let me be who I was most comfortable being. I worked as an in-house book editor on the East Coast when I graduated college. I was not interested in climbing the proverbial corporate ladder – just interested in learning my craft and performing my duties the best of my ability. It worked for a while.

Fast forward to almost ten years later when I left a full time job as a book editor in a publishing house and decided to work from home as a freelancer. I figured that I had a great shot at being successful working for myself. I had managed freelancers for years – I knew the drill. I had planned on writing, copyediting, and indexing for a living. What I hadn’t planned on was marketing.

You see, marketing oneself is an important part of any job – especially when one is self-employed. You are your own calling card. How could I be forced to network and “get my work out there,” if I had chosen the solitary path of a writer? This is the cruelest of realities for any job/success seeker, but especially cruel for the writer. Writers are usually quiet, pensive, and introspective by nature. But no matter how spectacular their writing may be, it will not find a home without some work on the part of the writer. This is where professional organizations entered the picture for me. I realized that I had to make connections that went beyond just chance encounters with other writers, copyeditors and book indexers. I joined groups such as the Editorial Freelancers Association, the American Society for Indexing, and the Modern Language Association.

These organizations did exactly what I had hoped that they would do. They gave me the opportunity to connect with professionals who were doing what I wanted to do. My connections with those organizations gave my resume more credibility, provided opportunities to go to professional conferences (and at reduced membership rates) and learn more my profession and recent advances within those industries, and they provided a heads up on jobs that I might be interested in through their message boards and email groups.

Another benefit of joining while you are still a student is that most professional organizations have a significantly reduced “student rate” that allows students to join with full benefits. Research the organizations that are well-regarded in your chosen field and start making your connections before you graduate!

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