Can you pinpoint one professional experience that changed your life?
My pivotal moment happened when I was only twenty-four.
I was asked to attend a professional association admissions conference. I thought, "Great! Just what I need to break up my summer — a run-of-the-mill, ordinary July conference."
It was anything but ordinary. It was anything but run-of-the-mill.
It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I was floored by the passion and dedication emanating from everyone in the room. These professionals not only put in long work hours, but they also committed extra hours in the evenings and weekends to create better outcomes for students. Their industry knowledge was incredible.
Bottom line: I could not help but want to become involved in the association. I did, and have never looked back since.
6 Reasons to Join a Professional Association (Though I Could Give You 1,000!)
I stepped aside from my professional association to do executive recruiting before I started my educational and career consulting business.
Guess what? I missed my professional association experiences so much.
I knew from the initial planning stages that professional associations would form a cornerstone of my business, Campus to Career Crossroads.
Reason 1: They give you a like-minded community.
I think we all know that at times, it can get lonely working as an independent educational consultant. CollegePlannerPro does a tremendous job of fostering a community among its members. If you enjoy the community and high-quality information provided by CollegePlannerPro, you will certainly benefit from a professional association.
My involvement with professional associations, especially the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), has always made me feel like I work with colleagues constantly. IECA helps my educational consulting practice as I work with clients throughout the country. We constantly share information and collaborate. I am always happy to return the favor by sharing the admissions scoop about colleges in my backyard and in my region.
Reason 2: You learn continuously.
Families trust us to lead them in the college planning process and we need to provide best-in-class information. Many associations provide weekly emails, newsletters, magazines, directories, and member-only events. College admissions changes constantly and associations help keep members on their toes by sharing new trends and regulations.
Joining a professional association also builds your credibility and trustworthiness among families. Many professional associations abide by a code of ethics, which helps distance all of us from the Varsity Blues scandal.
By the way, IECA's response during the Varsity Blues scandal was exceptional. It was a marathon effort by the staff because the scandal never seemed to go away.
Reason 3: You see new perspectives.
It is easy to stick your head in the sand (by getting so busy with your business) that you do not know what is going on around you. Professional associations can provide new perspectives, ideas, and outlooks. You may want to streamline your operations or look for new ways to make the college application season less stressful. Other professionals may have different ideas about how you can develop and positively impact your business.
Reason 4: College tours and industry events occur all the time.
Many college admissions professional associations provide another outlet for college tours and meeting admissions leadership. We can never have enough opportunities to tour colleges!
I have found state-level college admissions associations including the Pennsylvania Association of College Admissions Counseling (PACAC), which coordinates wonderful events and college tours throughout the state. This way, I can stay current with programs and campus amenities.
Reason 5: You can tap into networking opportunities.
What if you could prequalify your networking efforts?
Professional associations allow you to network with other people who share similar interests and goals. You save a lot of time by meeting people in the educational consulting community. Taking the time to meet educational consultants facing similar experiences and challenges will positively impact your business efforts.
I have some amazing colleagues through professional associations. My business would not be in a growth zone without some of the amazing connections I have made networking through professional associations.
Reason 6: They give you leadership opportunities.
I recall Mark Sklarow, CEO of IECA, saying once, “If you are going to be a member of a professional association, you should be an active member.”
I am proud to be the IECA regional leader for Ohio, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania since March 2019, which allows me to network with members from different states. I coordinate meetings with university presidents, admissions officials, and test prep companies. I was also asked to become a member of the IECA’s finance committee in July 2020. This was a humbling honor on two levels. First, the invitation was extended from my mentor (IECA has an amazing mentorship program as part of the membership). Secondly, IECA, like many associations at that time, was navigating financial and operational challenges due to COVID-19.
Ultimately, the planning we discussed and implemented were helpful for my business planning during COVID-19.
Get Involved Today!
Still on the fence as to whether professional associations make sense for you? Ask to attend a meeting or two. Most associations will grant this request. Then you can determine whether your chemistry works well among the other members. You can also find out whether you mesh with a particular association's goals.
Already in a professional association? Volunteer for a committee or become more active within a leadership role. Do not be afraid to inquire and explore the possibilities. The commitment may only last for a few months or a year.
If you have any questions about my professional association experiences or ways to get involved, please feel free to reach out directly. I would welcome hearing from some CollegePlannerPro colleagues!