Key to Career Success: Join An Industry Professional Association

Professional associations are not on the radar of most interns or young professionals. In fact, they weren’t on mine until a number of years ago, when I went to work for one.

When I became Chief Marketing Officer for the Association of Executive Search Consultants (, I learned all about professional associations and what it meant to belong to one. And now I encourage everyone, at every stage of their career, to join one.

Evaluate the Field


As an intern, you may not be sure of whether you will be a long-term member of a particular field, but that really doesn’t matter—what matters is that you take the time to really evaluate that field by meeting as many people – and potential mentors – as you can at all levels of experience.

Join for Free


Many associations allow you to join for free, or for a nominal fee, if you’re starting out. Many have student memberships—here’s an example.

Nearly every profession has at least one trade association; larger groups have local chapters all over the country and sometimes the world, enabling you to network with professionals close to home while networking globally. You can be involved as much or as little as you choose – but can greatly increase your networking exposure (and sphere of influence) by consistently attending meetings and volunteering for committees and events.

I strongly encourage you to join your industry association. When that new opportunity comes up, you’ll have experts in your field to help you, and your career!

If you don’t know the professional association(s) for your industry, try Or simply search using the terms of your field plus the word “association”.

About the Author: Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor that works with mid-career executives, young adults in high school and college, and recent graduates to help them understand how their strengths and interests fit in the world of work. Allison is author of the upcoming In The Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigational Skills for Young Adults, the first book to combine the perspectives of both a ‘Boomer’ and hundreds of Gen Y college grads aged 23 to 30.

An entrepreneur with cross-cultural expertise, Allison holds a BA from the University of Michigan and both an MA in International Education and a Certificate in Adult Career Planning from New York University.

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