The life of a leader is usually packed full of meetings, deadlines, and responsibilities – and those are just in your professional life. It’s easy to stay chained to your desk or be hyper-focused on internal matters. But, it’s important to your company, and yourself, that you get out of the office every once in a while and mingle with other professionals. And your local professional organization is a great place to do just that.

No matter your industry or area of expertise, it’s likely that there’s a professional organization dedicated to its support and growth. According to the American Society of Association Executives, which supports trade and professional associations across the country, there were a minimum of 90,908 trade and professional associations in 2009. It’s estimated that today there are over 100,000. Whether you’re involved in one or 10, you need to make sure you’re getting the most out of your involvement.

For Your Business
The time you spend away from the office participating in organization events is not lost productivity or profitability for the business. Most monthly meetings include an education portion, where you learn about new trends in the industry and are able to expand your expertise even more. As you mingle and network with fellow members and professionals, you are marketing your company and creating personal connections to the brand. This is the perfect chance to build new relationships, whether it’s with potential clients or beneficial vendors. Since funding is usually an issue for organizations, many provide sponsorship opportunities that, for a relatively low cost, get your logo and company information in front of many local businesses and leaders. This alone can make the membership fees and time commitment well worth it.

For Your Workforce
The networking opportunities that professional groups provide can also be used to connect with talented people that could be a good fit for your team. Many newly graduated and up-and-coming individuals participate in organizations in order to get their foot in door of the top employers in their field. The more involved in and dedicated to the organization someone is, the more likely they will show a high level of dedication and work ethic to their employer. So, keep your eye out for young professionals that serve on the board, work in committees, or volunteer at special events.

For Yourself
Whether you’re a mid-level manager or the business owner, use your involvement in the professional association to build your personal brand. If you want to change employers as part of your career path, this is your chance to build relationships within other companies. As other professionals get to know you, they may see how you could meet a need that they didn’t even know they had within their department or business. Personal branding is also important to business leaders and owners who are happy with their current employment situation. As more people come to know and recognize you as an expert in your field, the more opportunities you’ll have to share your knowledge and expertise.

Don’t let your membership in your professional organization merely consist of reading the weekly newsletter or quietly slipping in and out of monthly meetings. There are many ways you and your company can benefit from all that your association offers. You just have to make sure you’re maximizing your involvement and getting the most out of it as possible. Your time is too precious not to.

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