Several years ago, when I was Technical Director in a large San Francisco firm, I was asked by a newly minted architect why he should join AIA. Why should he spend the significant amount of dollars it takes to be a member? I am often asked similar questions by manufacturers and product representatives which association should they support or join.
In this depressing economic downturn, the issue of joining a professional association is critical and should not be dismissed without careful consideration. To survive, one has to work harder, be very flexible, and as agile as possible. Membership in professional associations can have highly positive impact on your ability to weather the economic storm.
- Professional Responsibility
Networking is #1
Without a doubt, the ability and opportunities to network through professional associations is how one gets highest value for dues paid in a professional organization. Woody Allen is often quoted as saying “80% of success is showing up!” If you join an organization you need to be present and involved.
Committees are an easy way to get involved in professional associations. There are always a number of committees with a range of interests and tasks. Find one that suites your interests or skills and get involved.
Continuing education is another growing area of opportunity. Professional associations are always in need of program ideas, good presenters, and individuals who can organize and produce programs. This also is a great way to get your interests and skills used to everyone’s benefit.
I have gotten involved with AIACC as a vice-president and have developed a number of excellent friends and contacts which has netted me sorely needed consulting work.
Sponsoring is a less intense way of participation but exceptionally important to associations and their budgets. When you provide financial or logistical support to the association you received significant exposure (branding) and plenty of member goodwill. Sponsoring should not be limited to just manufacturers or product representatives. Sponsoring is a significant way for professional and consulting firms to gain exposure within the profession.
Networking is a powerful reason to join and be involved in professional associations.
Branding: The Value of Initials
The brand value of initials after a professional’s name is quite high in the profession and often outside. Many times when someone discovers I am an architect they will say, “Oh, you are an AIA.” There seems to be automatic brand recognition of the initials AIA indicating “architect”.
Brand recognition is very important for product representatives. Every time I see CSI on a rep’s business card I immediate know that I am working with someone who is an industry player. When I see CDT or CCPR on a business card, I know that I am dealing with someone who highly knowledgeable about my industry. The lack of initials does not imply lack of industry knowledge is just leaves an important branding opportunity unresolved.
Never underestimate the branding power of association membership and the initials after your name in the construction industry. When a submittal or substitution request arrives, signed by someone with recognized industry initials, I always have an increased level of confidence in the transaction.
Responsibility to Advance the Profession
In my opinion, every member of a professional industry has a responsibility to participate and give something back to the profession. AIA, for instance, speaks for about 2/3 of the registered architects in the USA. While I am not always in agreement with what AIA says or does, I do know that they are striving to advance the architect’s best interests.
CSI, on another hand, represents a small but extraordinarily diverse group of construction industry professionals. The opportunities to network are second-to-none and, for that alone, CSI deserves support from industry professionals. Additional opportunities such as developing formats and industry recognized certifications are certainly worth the cost of dues and the value to time spent.
It is imperative that industry professionals join professional associations. However, if you do join, participate, get involved. In the end, the construction industry advances only when its members are active participants in the process and the associations that support the process.