Join a professional association before leaving academia

Are you looking for ways to add weight to your résumé when moving outside of academia? Why not give your applications a boost by joining a professional organisation or association in your target field of employment?

Membership of one of these organisations can show employers that you’re ‘one of them’, when you join a body representing their specific industry. Or that you’re a qualified professional, when you join a body representing a dedicated profession. Join as a full member and you can put the organisation’s letters after your name, to enhance your credibility.

Here are five examples of professional associations that you could join in the UK, depending of course on what job you’re aiming at:

– Chartered Institute of Marketing
– Institute of Translation and Interpreting
– Association for Project Management
– Institute of Engineering and Technology
– Society for Editors and Proofreaders

There are equivalent associations in other countries too (here are lists for the UK, USA and Canada). During my career I’ve been a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, when I was a trainer, and the Chartered Management Institute, when I was a manager. I currently belong to the Association for Project Management, which aims to gain chartered status soon!

As well as adding weight to your résumé, membership of a professional organisation can give you access to lots of great resources, including a trade magazine, an online community of professionals, and job boards. Use these resources to discover more about an industry or profession, learn its language, make connections and find openings that you can apply for.

There are ways to minimise the cost of membership. If your institution is already a member of a professional association, you may be able to join up without paying a registration fee. Take advantage of student or young professional rates where you can. And sign up for newsletters and follow Twitter accounts to get promotional codes.

What professional bodies or associations are you a member of? Which ones do you recommend that researchers join? Leave a comment below or tweet me @chrishumphrey!

Further reading – marketing yourself

Applying for jobs outside academia – from PhD to fellow professional, by Chris
How to tell a great story about your transition out of academia, by Chris
How to recognise and overcome the failure story after your PhD, by Chris
Feeling like a failure? 4 strategies for beating the post-PhD blues, by Chris