How to make use of a professional organization?
January 27, 2015 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm in grad school for a masters in counseling, and our teachers are telling us we need to join listservs and professional organizations, so we know what's happening in our field right now. My issue is this: I have limited time every day, and I'm ADHD. Given these factors, how involved should I get in professional organizations? Are they helpful? Or are they the yearbook committee of the post-graduate world?

The two professional organizations I joined have a variety of student interest committees, options to present at conferences, small research grants, continuing education/webinars, and expensive-but-ultimately-useful mentoring opportunities. I'm planning on attending the grand annual conference for at least one of them.

I guess I'm wondering how I can get the most out of my membership without letting my ADHD run wild. I am afraid of totally wasting my time debating political minutiae on a forum board (I have seen coworkers do this--I've avoided things like LinkedIn groups for that very reason).

What have you found useful in your own professional organizations?
Is joining a committee or a student interest group worthwhile (and why)?
Do you volunteer through your organization? Is there a reason you do so, besides altruism?
If you have trouble with time management, how do you figure that into your work with your organization?
posted by aaxelrod to Education (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in several professional organizations as part of my job. I create a different e-mail folder for their e-mails that skip my inbox and go directly there. I then check out the folder when I have down time (maybe once a day or every other day) and the subject of the e-mail looks interested. I know people who read every e-mail that comes in from these listservs and it is a total time sink - and I don't know what they get out of it.

How do I use the organizations? Information on jobs, grants, networking, periodically I post questions myself. Otherwise I ignore them.
posted by Toddles at 8:53 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

The point is to build your network. Right now maybe your professors and peers in your program see you as a budding professional, and maybe not many other people. You want to increase the number of people who see you in your professional identity and respect your work.

My purpose in joining a volunteer group within a professional organization, besides caring about the cause the volunteers were working toward, was so that fellow volunteers could see that I can follow instructions, get along with people, complete quality work on time as promised, and other really basic components of professionalism. For me, winning my fellow volunteers' respect has led to higher volunteering positions (unfortunately, more unpaid work) and a few statements like "if you're ever looking for a job in [city],..." (which is the point)

I treat listservs as read-only (if you can actually set up your subscription that way it might be helpful in curbing the impulse to post). I send them to a separate folder in my inbox, and skim them in 5 or 10 minutes per day. If there is something announced on the listserv that is relevant to your interests, that's all you need to know. If people are arguing political minutiae, skim past it. And definitely don't participate in it, because you don't want to be that person whose name popping up on a listserv email makes everyone groan.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:54 PM on January 27, 2015

I'm a licensed marriage & family therapist in California. I joined CAMFT in grad school, and have used it to get super affordable malpractice insurance, easy access to template forms and info when I wanted to start a private practice side project, and I read the articles in the magazine that they send me about legal/ethical stuff, DSM-5, changes to laws in our state, etc. I went to the conference one year and loved it. There are also groups that actually meet for networking, which is useful if you're in private practice or need to generate your own referrals somehow. Through CAMFT, I really haven't found it pertinent to join any committees or groups or put a lot of time into the organization itself--just to access some important resources when I find I need them.

I really find it extremely easy to ignore all of this stuff because it largely doesn't apply to me, but in this field, professional organizations are awesome and super accessible resources for advocacy and support, where your state licensing board is kinda not so much. When you submit your practice hours toward licensure, your professional organization will have info on tips to make sure your application gets approved on the first run, etc. where the licensing board will be saying effectively, "you shouldn't be worried or confused if you're reading the 34838472895 guidelines and rules explaining what you're supposed to do!"
posted by so_gracefully at 9:57 PM on January 27, 2015

I went beyond Toddles and set up a completely separate GMail account for my professional association stuff. There is the potential for it to take up time, but being an active member/volunteer in such groups is incredibly valuable. I wish I had done it earlier. I can credit much of any success in my career to learning, work, and collaboration I have done through professional groups.

Volunteer for a committee or task. Maybe they need volunteers for the upcoming conference? good way to maybe get in free. But if you need to control involvement, describe your needs to someone in the group. Something, like "I'd like to help out, but I don't want to overcommit. Is there a role/task/committee with a clear description or scope?" That might help. There are always multiple vacancies in these groups and nobody wants a volunteer who winds up in over their head.

And, don't be afraid to unvolunteer yourself if you have to. Many people try to just fade away, but if you don't have time, say so and relinquish your job in the group.
posted by Gotanda at 10:29 PM on January 27, 2015

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