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As I started a teaching and writing career some years ago, I began to meet like-minded folks who introduced me to professional associations filled with people who spoke my language. What an eye-opener when I met technical and business communicators, instructional designers, information architects and other knowledge workers who made the explosive information age workable and orderly for themselves and others. Finding kindred spirits continues to be a benefit of associating with colleagues. As my experience with several associations shows, the rewards are numerous.
Through a longstanding membership in the Society for Technical Communication (STC), I have honed my craft and mastered the changing tools required to design, develop and deliver publications. Through membership in the Project Management Institute (PMI), I have learned to apply project management principles related to managing scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk, procurement and more to my work.
At a present juncture in which I am culling what I have learned to develop off-the- shelf products and deliver keynote speeches, I am finding still other associations. Locally, the Rochester Professional Consultants Network (RPCN) offers a supportive environment for testing ideas, asking technical and business questions and associating with others who have acquired expertise through long, successful careers. Through the Ad Council, which connects not-for profit entities with professional marketing communicators, I plan to join roundtable discussions, offer my perspective in solving a business issue and better understand and appreciate others perspectives. Desiring involvement with professional speakers, Ive learned that area Toastmasters Clubs can provide opportunities to practice ones own speeches and study what works well for others. An Internet search recently introduced me to the National Speakers Association. Through its periodicals, conference, speakers bureau and professional expert groups, theres untold opportunity to segue into the professional speakers field.
I am not alone in benefiting from membership in associations. Business colleagues, Syd Tenenbaum, Joanne Greene-Blose, Scott Bass, Ron Blicq, Rodica Ceslov, James Wondrack and, no doubt, countless others, have experienced benefits.
Syd Tenenbaum, President of Empire State Container, Inc., is involved in several organizations — some that are specific to the packaging industry and others that are open to diverse sectors of the economy. An active member of the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY), the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters (AICC) and the International Organization of Packaging Professionals (IOPP), Syd comments, Since we are an independent company with no corporate office, it is essential that we go outside of our company to gain education and knowledge. Learning more about the industry, making contacts that have helped grow his business and getting involved in committees where the true networking occurs are reasons that Syd keeps active. I belong to an executive dialogue group of the Chamber of Commerce, which meets monthly. We use this as a forum to discuss common problems and issues even though we all have unrelated businesses. I make it a point to join different groups each year so that I can meet new people.
When one works for the same employer for many years, as Joanne Greene-Blose had, there is a feeling of insulation from the rest of the city. That prompted her to join RPCN, the Executive Women of Rochester and the Rochester Womens Network. The attraction for me to join was initially to expand the acquaintances that I have. The primary value I attain from these organizations now is the friendship, learning and lead generation for my business. As President of Project Solvers of America, Inc., Joanne also belongs to PMI to keep my project management professional knowledge up to date as well as meet other project managers in Rochester.
Scott Bass, President of Advanced Language Translation Inc., values membership in multiple organizations. The Association of Language Companies (ALC) allows me to network with fellow owners/managers of language service companies. I learn about different ways to manage, new technologies and the state of our industry. The American Translators Association (ATA) allows me to connect with our vendors. STC enables me to keep abreast of developments in technical communication and is a good venue for promoting my company.
Professional associations clearly enrich ones world. Ron Blicq, Principal Senior Consultant with RGI Learning Inc., specialists in practical communication techniques, is an active member of STC, the IEEE/Professional Communication Society, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC), the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW) and the Canadian Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (CATTW). For Ron, the greatest value of membership comes from exchanging ideas with and getting to know people in similar situations and, particularly, in other countries, so I can understand the cultural differences that affect communication.
Rodica Ceslov is Co-founder of Wild Frog Studio, a multimedia design and marketing company. As First Vice President and member of the Board of Directors of the Advertising Club of Westchester that serves Westchester, Putnam, Fairfield and Rockland counties, she applauds the clubs main event, the Big W Award competition. Winning an award gives our members exposure and credibility with their peers and clients. Many members bring the clients for whom they did the award-winning work to the Gala Awards Dinner, which strengthens their business relationships. The members get great discounts on their entry and on the Gala Awards Dinner fees. College students can also gain exposure through the Ad Clubs mentoring programs and by entering their own campaigns in the student category of the Big W. The Ad Club also grants two annual scholarships to local area students annually.
Since 1914, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) has evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of the communication designer. James Wondrack, Owner of Wondrack Design and President of the Upstate New York chapter, described the personal relationships established throughout the country via membership in AIGAs specialized communities interested in Brand Experience, Experience Design, Cross-cultural Design, Design Education, Illustration and Typography. Members can find meaningful content and relationships with those who have the same specialized interests or skills. For example, AIGA has created the opportunity for members to get involved with Design for Democracy, whose goal is improving the election experience. The national organization sponsors the bi-annual Gain conference, where clients and designers present their successful business case studies. James indicated, Were fortunate to also have the best designers from other parts of the country present their body of work gratis to our chapter because of its AIGA affiliation. Passionate and inspirational, they show our chapter members what is possible.
So what about you? Are you consumed with a driving concern thats begging for resolution? Have you exhausted your own resources and those of your current network? Do you have an idea thats just beginning to percolate? Are you looking for a place to test new concepts? Do you have a desire to support newcomers to your profession? Now may be the perfect time to consider membership in an association. Whether you attend a meeting every now and then to socialize, participate in events that have a program of specific interest, take charge of a committee, or get involved in the organizations national or international events, you determine the extent of your involvement. When you demonstrate your capabilities, others will take notice. They will benefit, and so will you.
Wherever you are geographically, professionally, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, there are others who were, are, or will be in a similar place. When you connect with this community through its associations, youll find endless possibilities for learning and growth. So go for it — and for future columns, let me know how you have profited.
Judith Ellison Shenouda earned a Master of Arts degree in Literacy Journalism from S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She completed additional courses in curriculum design and development, group dynamics, information studies, publication management and project management; and has New York State Certification to teach Secondary English. Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., a business that eases communication through its publication services; an experienced educator; and an accomplished communicator, she can be reached at JESheno@aol.com or through her company web site, http://www.easescommunication.com.