When I was a rookie reporter, I joined the National Federation of Press Women, or NFPW, because I heard it would be great for networking. I figured if I was a member, when I applied for my next position, I would be ahead of the competition. It doesn’t quite work that way, of course.
Networking does play a role, but, as I’ve learned, it’s about give and take. Professional groups also help with other areas, including:
Networking. In the early years, I really didn’t have much to contribute as I was busy learning the ropes. However, many members were kind enough to impart wisdom to me, which I eagerly accepted. When I need contacts in other states, my NFPW peers always connect me with the right people. And now that I’m in a position to help, I always agree to information interviews and seek out new members and assign them a short-term role that would provide them with more exposure with the group.
Opportunities. I’ve organized conferences at both the state and national level. Putting together conferences has really honed my event planning skills. In my previous job, I had to put together awards ceremonies, special events and graduations. They all turned out fine because I applied the skills I had developed organizing conferences to these events.
One of my early forays as a newsletter editor was for my state affiliate, Virginia Press Women. Later I would go on to create an award-winning newsletter for one of the agencies with which I worked.
My first exposure to social media was during a workshop at a national conference. At the time, I thought, “This is too confusing.” Who knew that years later, I’d write my own blog and be on Twitter and Facebook. And that there would be lots of other platforms to try out, too, including Pinterest and Vine.
Professional Development. I attend conferences at the state level and the national level. Not only do I get to learn about trends, I also get refreshers in basic skills. Conferences also provide me with space to think and plan.
Another way that I improve my skills is through the annual communications contest. Of course, I like winning, but the judge’s comments are helpful, too. It forces me to think about how I could have executed a project better. I’ve also judged and reviewing entries makes me think about how I might approach a project differently.
Expanded Viewpoint. One of the benefits of NFPW is the travel to a different conference location each year. Many organizations do the same thing, but too often attendees don’t venture from the hotel. NFPW always arranges a tour (or two) at some point. It’s a great way to learn about another part of the country. I’m always surprised how I’m able to weave the facts I learn about a region into my work, usually as a means to open a conversation with a person from that area.
Another huge benefit for me that has nothing to do with professional development; it’s the friendships I have made. I delight in having friends scattered around the country. It’s a great way to really know what is going on outside my state. And I always know I have someone with whom I can visit if I have an extra day.
What do you get from your professional memberships?