On the short list of my career-related regrets, one still stands out as particularly glaring.

Despite pledging many times to do so, I never took the first steps towards helping form an association for local media professionals.

As highly competitive as the Peterborough media landscape is, in both a news reporting and sales sense, members of that fraternity share strikingly similar challenges, frustrations, stresses and concerns. The opportunity to come together socially would be as therapeutic as it is useful in coming up with possible solutions to common challenges.

I’ve experienced that on an informal basis during the times my media colleagues do come together, be it at an assignment, a retirement function or something as simple as a few drinks after work. Try as we might to make idle chit-chat, the conversation always comes back to what we do, how we do it and/or how we can do it better. That is the tie that binds.

That’s inevitable. Our media career pursuits form a huge part of our collective lives, so it’s what we talk about. But more than that, only those walking a similar path can truly understand the crosses the other has to bear. The opportunity to talk into a sympathetic ear is too good to pass up.

In Peterborough, both city and county, there are a number of professional associations for members of a variety of vocations. Some have been in place for decades, others are relatively new, but each provides its members a number of benefits. Simply put, there’s more than simply power in numbers. Much more in the form of new relationships, new opportunities and new

In the second segment of this two-part blog series, I’ll introduce you to a few of the local professional associations that are serving their members well through a variety of career-enhancing initiatives and opportunities. But first things first in the form of an overview of the general career-boosting benefits of joining a professional association and staying active within its ranks.

  • Industry Knowledge: Many associations offer courses, seminars and/or lectures to help members stay current on industry innovations, research and trends.
  • Career Exploration: Associations sometimes compile job listings online or in print which are available only to members. Targeted job postings are an invaluable resource.
  • Resume Enhancement: Listing your association membership on your resume is impressive to future employers as it shows you are clearly dedicated to staying connected within your profession. For current employers, it shows a drive to better yourself to the great benefit of your work for his/her organization.
  • Network Expansion: With the making of connections critical, joining an association provides opportunities to connect face-to-face on local, and sometimes, global levels. The creation and nurturing of professional relationships is vital as it opens the door to new ideas and opportunities that will be key to reaching your professional goals.
  • Leadership Development: Professional associations develop your skills as a leader by providing opportunities to seek and secure an executive role within the association.  
  • Mentor-ship: Besides being immensely satisfying on a personal level, giving back in the form of mentoring those coming up behind illustrates your commitment to the future well-being of your profession. In addition, participating in forums, chat groups or discussion boards sponsored by an association is also a great way to grow your network.
  • Make New Friends: It can be difficult to get out, meet new people and make new friends. Membership in a professional association provides opportunity to step outside of your normal circle and meet new people, helping you step away from the everyday stresses of your career and have a little bit of fun in the process.
  • Give Back To The Community: Many professional organizations co-ordinate initiatives in support of larger community efforts, be it a food bank, an animal shelter or a broader fundraising focus such as the United Way.
  • Strength In Numbers: Developing and maintaining a presence in your field often demands working long hours and bringing work home, leaving little time for the cultivation of new relationships and partnerships. A professional association provides access to an established support system of experienced people motivated to get things done, making it a group you want to run with to realize beyond-the-office career-enhancing opportunities.
  • Stay Inspired: It’s not difficult to get down on your career as long hours and a heavy workload take their toll. Being active in a professional association refreshes your batteries, letting you know you’re not alone while providing the opportunity to talk about what you love to do with those equally

This last point has been key for me. As a longtime member of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA), I always returned from conventions and training sessions reinvigorated. As time passed and the years in my profession added up quickly, this was key to keeping me motivated, always serving to remind me of the reasons why I chose my career in the first place.

At the end of the day, ask yourself one simple question: Can I afford to not be a member of a professional association? Now go make it happen.