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Seeking a Dream Job? Join a Professional Association

Seeking a Dream Job? Join a Professional Association

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By Dr. Ginger Raya
Faculty Member, School of Health Sciences, American Public University

How do you land your dream job? I’ve met many students over the years who are pursuing degrees in fields that are often different from their current occupations. So how do you break into a field that perhaps you have little or no practical experience in?

I once had a student who was pursuing a healthcare degree with an emphasis in finance ask me how she could realistically land her dream job. She wanted to work in healthcare finance and someday become a Chief Financial Officer in a hospital. She had spent years working in a high school setting.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

Prior to that, she did some banking work but she had no healthcare experience. So how was she planning to cross into a different industry? Often, the answer is to join a professional association. There are four reasons why joining a professional association is a good idea.

#1: Student Association Membership Fees Are Far Lower

College students are often able to become members of professional associations at a fraction of the cost of the standard membership fee. For example, I’m a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

I suggested to my healthcare finance student that she become a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). Each of these associations has a student rate that is far lower than that of regular members. And often the student rate will still give you access to the same information and data full members have:

  • ACHE’s standard annual member rate is $345. The student rate is $75.
  • MGMA’s annual membership rate is $399. The student rate is $35.
  • HFMA’s annual standard rate is $435. The student rate is $50.

#2: Networking Events Offer the Chance to Develop Professional Connections

Joining a professional association with a student membership will usually get you access to prime networking events. Who you know will help open doors.

If you can find an active chapter in your community, you will be invited to the same networking events as the full-paying professional members. As a result, you will have access to executives who often enjoy learning more about students’ interests and how they can help them.

In ACHE, pre-COVID-19, we tried to host quarterly mixers. Whenever we had mixers, some students attended. It was my personal mission to introduce them to executives in the specific area they were interested in so that they could ask them for tips and career advice.

#3: You’ll Have Full Access to the Association’s Job Board

As a member of a professional association, you will typically have full access to the association’s job board. ACHE, for example, has extensive early careerist resources on its career site. ACHE helps its members with resume development, interview tips and advice on how to develop a stellar LinkedIn profile.

The organization also provides student members with access to a job board that posts job opportunities in students’ home communities and in other areas in the country where they might be interested in working. Industry stakeholders and other hiring entities will invest in posting jobs on association job boards, because they know they can often find the skill sets they are looking for among association members.

#4: You Can Stay Up to Date with the Latest Industry Trends

If you are not already active in the industry in which you want to work, joining a professional association will give you access to trends and information that you need to become well-versed and current on what’s happening in that industry.

So my advice is to home in on associations that are relevant to your specific career interests. Then I would narrow the number of associations to only those that have an active chapter near you. This will give you direct access to executives, networking events, industry specific career info and insightful information that could give you the edge for a big break to your dream job.

About the Author

Dr. Ginger Raya is a faculty member in the School of Health Sciences at American Public University. She has been a healthcare leader for over 15 years in academic and ambulatory medicine environment.  Dr. Raya is an experienced faculty and a course developer in healthcare administration for over 11 years. In addition, she is a certified career coach specializing in helping grad students find meaningful careers in healthcare. 

Dr. Raya has a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas at El Paso. She also holds a master’s degree in health care administration from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and a Doctor of Education in organizational leadership from Argosy University.

Dr. Raya was competitively selected and is a graduate of Leadership Texas (Class of 2015), a nonprofit social enterprise that is a nationally recognized, preeminent women’s education organization through Leadership Women, Inc. She was selected to participate in the Leadership America 2020 cohort and served on the Board of Directors for the local chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives. She was also elected to the Board of Directors for Evolve Federal Credit Union, one of the largest credit unions in El Paso and previously served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for KCOS-TV, El Paso’s PBS Station.

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