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I am a member of a professional Institute, so today’s blog is a bit of advice.

If you have skills, knowledge, experience and talents in a specific field – or even if you are the first in your field – then one way of serving others is to join a professional association that those skills can serve, and which in turn will serve you in improving your skills.

But there is a caveat – don’t join the first association/body/organisation that comes to mind.

I am aware of organisations out there that one could be forgiven for thinking arose out of spite, when someone wasn’t able (legally, socially, historically or otherwise) able to join one organisation. So they start another one with lower membership expectations, one that is easier to join. Or someone started a charity they want to assist, but when they found that the charity didn’t want to do things their way, they started a competing charity, thus doubling the admin fees that the charity money pay for. Example: Help for Heroes came into being, and now we regaled with regiment-specific charities, and other charities with the same generic aims as H4H. I wish that whoever has those motives would swallow their pride in favour of those they serve, and lump all the charity funding together.

Back to my point.

Select the organisation you want to join carefully. Try to find one that has the ears of any authority that regulates the sector in which you work or carry out your hobbies if you can, because that improves your chances of making a meaningful difference, over time. Cost should not be used as an issue in deciding whether to join; the standards and objectives of the organisation should be the deciding factor.

Once you join, put yourself about a bit, and offer to help whenever you can. Join a local chapter if there is one, and be an active contributor. Don’t be a passive attendee, offer opinions and assistance. In time, you also want to make sure – again where applicable – that you progress along whatever professional ladder the association provides.

The ultimate objective is to become a respected authority within that organisation – not because of the power (my experience is that there isn’t any!) but because it puts you in a position where you can make a difference. Don’t seek promotion for self-serving motives. That is not how you serve others. But you do get some self-esteem from doing this – it is inevitable that you get something from it, but this way it is also ethical.

So take the time this week to identify a professional body, charity or Institute that relates to your profession or vocation (hobbies count), and start moving towards being a contributor.

You will enjoy it, I promise.