No one has to sell Sheena Thornton on the merits of membership with a professional association. She has walked the walk and is thrilled over where her journey has taken her.

Sheena is a member of the Peterborough chapter of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) – one of 27 chapters in Ontario. With more than 200 members, it’s a very healthy collective that offers participants professional development activities, networking opportunities, mentoring connections, conferences and workshops – all the set pieces that a professional association should offer its members.

But there’s something else more elementary and it speaks to the true benefit of professional association membership.

“To be part of a bigger group of people who understand where you’re coming from and what you deal with on a day-to-day basis…that’s the benefit,” explains Sheena, who works for research company Ipsos-Reid in Toronto but, up to a year-and-a-half ago, was with Nexicom.

“You really realize how many people are facing the similar situations as yourself; you get that different perspective on how to handle them and where to go. Maybe somebody has already gone through that. I find HR people really like to talk and share those experiences – what they have done, how they handled it and what they would do differently. HR is not black and white. It’s often grey. It all depends on the situation, the time and the people involved. It’s really good to get different perspectives.”

In that sense, the Human Resources Professionals Association shares a common link with a number of Peterborough area organizations that bring members together to talk shop, so to speak. The Peterborough Law Association, the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Association of Realtors, the Peterborough Area Fundraisers Network, the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario, and the Peterborough chapter of Professional Engineers Ontario come to mind quickly but there are others.

While each has established different goals and agendas to cater to members’ particular needs, all offer that you’re-not-in-this-alone support that Sheena speaks of.

Think about it. How many times have you come home from a long day at work and vented about a particular frustration or a challenge that’s a bit too challenging? Believe me, I’m quite familiar with that blank stare you were inevitably greeted with. I’ve seen it many times.


At the end of the day, no one knows the career and/or workplace crosses you bear like someone who is experiencing, or has experienced, the same. The opportunity to share those experiences with someone who has walked the walk is too good to pass up.

“There’s constant learning,” notes Sheena of her experience.

“And being part of a local chapter puts you in touch with people in your community that you can reach out to on a personal level as well, not just through LinkedIn. People often exchange business cards and information, saying ‘If you’re ever having trouble with a situation, I’m an expert in that and you can just reach out to me.’ Everybody has their own niche that they can draw from.”

Whatever career path you’re following, it’s a safe assumption that it involves something you love to do. It’s also a given that you want to become more proficient at what you do. Membership in a professional association lets you exhibit your passion for your work with those who share that passion while providing tools and resources to be the best you can be at what you do. Is that not worth your time and full attention?