Join an industry association: Network, learn and get advice from pros

Former journalist Adam Kirby is a first year Roosevelt's Training and Development grad student. He also is vice president of marketing on the CCASTD Board of Directors.

Former journalist Adam Kirby is a first year Roosevelt’s Training and Development grad student. He also is vice president of marketing on the CCASTD Board of Directors.

If you’re like most students in the Training & Development program at Roosevelt, pursuit of a master’s or a graduate credential is ultimately about career advancement. Whether you’re an established industry professional looking to sharpen skills or earn a promotion, or you’re a career-changer, like me, trying to break into the field, all of us would benefit from building and enhancing our network of like-minded professionals.

There’s no better way to network than by joining a local industry association, an affiliation that has the added benefit of ongoing education and skills development. The Chicago area is blessed with a number of active associations catering to Training & Development professionals – Chicago International Society for Performance Improvement, Chicago Coach Federation and The Organization Development Network of Chicago, just to name a few – but the region’s best-known and most iconic workplace learning organization is Chicagoland Chapter of the American Society for Training & Development (CCASTD).

CCASTD offers monthly networking and professional development events, which include speakers and seminars on a host of Training & Development topics and issues, in addition to other events throughout the year like webinars, conferences, niche group meetings called Professional Development Networks, and even occasional dinner parties. You don’t have to be a CCASTD member to participate in any of these, although members get discounts on registration fees, so membership pays for itself in fairly short order.

Students should take note of CCASTD’s mentoring program. Some of the more established members volunteer to act as mentors to less experienced members, offering them personalized advice, support, guidance and knowledge as they establish and grow their careers. This program is included in the cost of membership.

Speaking of memberships there is good news about fees: Student membership is about half the price of regular membership rates, so take advantage of that while you can. At $70 for the whole year, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of school and books. Click here to join.

CCASTD has a mix of members ideal for networking. You’ll find people from all areas of the workplace learning profession – instructional design, organizational development, executive coaching, e-learning development, human resources management, training, human performance improvement – with experience levels ranging from rookies to retirees.

Before I joined CCASTD, I worried my lack of industry experience and my grad student status would peg me as an oddball among the more seasoned members. Nothing could be further from the case. One of the great things about the workplace learning industry is that it attracts friendly people who want to make a positive impact on the lives and careers of others, and that is absolutely reflected in the atmosphere at CCASTD events. The CCASTD community welcomed me from the start, offering support and encouragement as in my new career path. It’s worth noting that about 10 percent of CCASTD members are students, so we’re in good company.

The formal education I’m getting in Roosevelt’s Training & Development program is wonderful, but the informal education I’m getting from CCASTD – the real-time industry insight, the myriad personal perspectives, and the tremendous networking – is at least as valuable. To get ahead in life, you need to be both book smart and street smart. Same goes for finding success in your Training & Development career. By studying at Roosevelt, you’re well on your way being book-smart. Complete the other half of the equation by joining a professional association.

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One Response to Join an industry association: Network, learn and get advice from pros

  1. mcordello says:

    Everything Adam says is very true. I am a member and attended my first event a couple of weeks ago. It was very informative and enlightening. I recommend both joining and attending CCASTD.

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