Career building through professional organizations

June 18, 2012
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What does it take to find a job, keep a job and do well in your career? Many would agree there is one good answer to all three situations: become involved in a professional group tied to your career choice.

Whether you are a student seeking a first career position or an employee wanting to change companies, a professional organization can be of value. It is also a means of learning the latest trends in your industry. Examples include: American Management Association, Small Business Association and Michigan Business & Professional Association.

Another is the American Marketing Association. The AMA is an international professional organization for individuals and organizations that bring together all marketers across all specialties to collaborate and inspire one another, to network with other professionals in the same field, and to learn from one another. It offers members the opportunity to find positions in their field and grow in their careers. The organization is involved in the practice, teaching and study of marketing worldwide. Its roots are traced to the early 1900s when the National Association of Teachers of Advertisers and American Marketing Society merged.

The association has national, state, local and collegiate chapters. These organizations are committed to promoting the highest standards of professional ethical norms and values for practitioners, academics and students. Individuals learn what “ethical marketing” means and how to make good ethical decisions. Marketers are responsible for multiple stakeholders: customers, employees, investors, peers, channel members, regulators and communities. Those who want to learn and grow in their field will discern the principal roles to which the AMA adheres, which include improving marketing competencies; promoting the importance of the association, efficacy and ethics; and support as a resource for market information, education/training and relationships. Since every industry sector and marketing sub-disciplines (marketing research, e-commerce, Internet selling, direct marketing and advertising) has its own ethical issues, various links are offered on the AMA website for assistance.

Members learn that the key values of the AMA include honesty, responsibility, fairness, respect, transparency and citizenship. There are opportunities to attend national and international conferences. There also are a number of AMA publications available to members: Marketing News, AMA Magazine, AMA Journals, newsletters and directories.

In today’s weak economy, AMA’s West Michigan chapter is a valuable tool for professionals to gain insight for advancement and career positions. There are also networking events — often cited as the No. 1 reason to join. Job postings are also available on the website. There are many positions available in the field: graphic designers, writers, marketing communication specialists, product managers, sales professionals, marketing directors, brand experts, marketing executives and educators.

The AMA offers college students the same opportunities through collegiate chapters. As one of the advisers for the Grand Valley State University chapter, it is exciting for me to watch future marketers learn and grow through their collegiate experience. The chapter offers two meetings a month for its members and a number of benefits. It also has an executive board that drives major decisions.

The board completes a chapter plan outlining the goals for the academic year with possible points to be earned toward awards for the chapter. This is a great tool for students to gain hands-on experience that will help them in their future careers. The GVSU chapter participated in last year’s annual International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans and took home awards for new and revitalized chapter (increased memberships), outstanding chapter plan (goals and objectives) and outstanding communication (website, Facebook page, member communication).

Members can learn about career paths within the marketing field from representatives of top local companies. Other activities include company tours, résumé workshops, social activities, career tips, the opportunity to work on a case analysis submitted for a national competition, and the chance to attend the national conference.

I have been a member of the local chapter for a number of years and have enjoyed professional relationships and learning new marketing strategies. It has been a pleasure watching students grow and develop creative thinking skills. During my 28 years of teaching marketing and working in the industry, I have witnessed AMA bridge the gap between academia and industry. It is important for students to understand that being a part of a professional organization is one of the areas in which employers expect students to be involved. It will enhance their ability to find a position and grow within their chosen career.

Maria Landon is an affiliate faculty member of the marketing department at Grand Valley State University.

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