Here’s one thing I’m glad I did when I graduated college: I  joined a local chapter of a professional organization. I firmly believe that it’s the best thing I did for my budding career. However, professional organizations can hold advantages for professionals at all levels.

With the start of a new year, it’s the perfect time to consider joining a professional organization.

Here are 5 reasons to join a professional organization this year:

  1. Networking opportunities. This may be the most obvious, yet underappreciated, point of a professional organization. Most people know that networking events are a common practice of professional organizations, but until you’ve experienced one, you might not realize just how helpful it is to attend a mixer where everyone has something in common. When you’re in a room full of people interested in a given topic, conversation flows easily, and the relationships built can be valuable.
  2. Professional development. A huge benefit of professional organizations is the access you gain to professional development opportunities, often at a discounted rate. Whether these are online or face-to-face, the options and learning experiences are often unlimited.
  3. Leadership experience. Even if you don’t think you’re the type to run for office, the more involved you become in an organization, the more you may be seen as a leader in that community. Whether it’s serving in a governance capacity or on a fundraising subcommittee, these roles are a great way to gain leadership experience outside the traditional office format, and will often help your networking opportunities grow even further.
  4. Friendship. Although you’re building a professional network with an organization, there’s no reason you can’t build true friendships. If you haven’t yet made friends in a new-to-you city, this is a great perk of joining an organization that’s specific to your career field. You’ve already got something in common!
  5. Fun! While professional organizations serve to help your career, they also want their members to have fun! From guest lectures by industry experts to happy hour mixers, there are usually low-key, fun events you can choose from in addition to the typical functions.

There are many types of professional organizations out there. If you don’t know of one, simply do an online search to get started. has a professional association finder tool. Or, ask around at your workplace. There may be an organization that’s a great fit for you out there!