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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Importance of Professional Organizations

I'm a member of several professional organizations as well as several different business related groups. I think involvement in professional organizations is one of the most valuable career tools available to everyone, no matter where you are at your career. I first got involved when I was in college. One of my accounting instructors (my major) was the president of the local management accountants organization (now the IMA - Institute of Management Accountants, it was the NAA - National Association of Accountants, at the time), and a strong proponent of professional associations. I joined primarily to learn about the accounting profession and to meet people. I worked in internal auditing while I was a student, and everyone in the office was a member of both the IIA - Institute of Internal Auditors and the AICPA - American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. I received a small scholarship from the local IIA chapter, which included a membership so I was a member of that organization too. It turns out I wasn't really suited to accounting, but joining these organizations showed me the value that I continue to receive to this day.

I switched careers into Business Operations, first with inventory management, then production planning, purchasing, warehousing, quality, and other areas. When I first got involved with operations, a co-worker introduced me to APICS - The Association for Operations Management. I joined to learn about my new profession. When I started receiving the magazine that came with my membership I was really hooked. There was tons of wonderful and useful information in there. I ordered the annual conference proceedings, which came in printed form at the time, to learn even more. But I couldn't understand everything, so I started studying for the CPIM - Certified in Production and Inventory Management certification. That really opened my eyes to operations. That led me to more. I started getting involved with the local chapter, then was able to travel to the quarterly Region Meetings where I met presidents and officers from the other chapters in our Region.

I've continued to stay involved with APICS, even serving on several Association level committees. I've joined other organizations, ASQ - American Society of Quality, which I'm still a member of, and ISM - Institute of Supply Management, and I've earned several other professional certifications (CIRM - Certified in Integrated Resources Management, CQMgr - Certified Quality Manager, and CSSBB - Certified Six Sigma Black Belt). I continue to learn by attending presentations and conferences held by these organizations, and by giving presentations to local chapters of these organizations and their national and international conferences.

But, by far, the biggest benefit I've received, and continue to receive, is the people I've met and the friends I've made. I encourage everyone to join, and become active, in professional organizations. Whatever field you're in, or are interested in, there is an organization for you. Get involved, learn, meet new friends, and reap the benefits.

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