Ask Matt: How recent college grads can benefit from joining professional associations

Posted November 18, 2016 by

Networking2Dear Matt: I’m a recent college graduate who is seeking opportunities to grow and network within my field. I’ve always heard that professional associations are beneficial. Why should recent college grads join professional/industry associations?

Matt: Joining an industry-related association or trade organization, or young professionals networking organization, are great ways for recent college graduates to network, meet other like-minded professionals, and learn. Many recent college grads have met professionals who have become future co-workers, managers, and even friends, through associations or various professional networking organizations.

But meeting people and making contacts and friends are only a small reason why joining industry associations are highly recommended for college students and recent college grads.

“Recent graduates benefit immensely from joining professional associations – and there’s much more to it than networking for job opportunities or brushing up on your interviewing skills,” says Richard Baseil, executive director of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, the world’s premier association for signal processing engineers and industry professionals.

Joining professional associations allows college students and recent college graduates to stay on top of industry trends, learn about volunteer or leadership opportunities, and enables project collaboration. For example, IEEE’s Signal Processing Society offers current students and recent graduates exclusive member benefits including continuing education, substantial discounts on various technical and industry resources, and career recognition through scholarships and awards.  And, since most employees do not stay with a single employer through their career, an association such as IEEE can act as a stable “home base” as members seek other opportunities.

Employers like employees who step outside their comfort zone

Joining industry or professional associations also shows employers that individuals are serious about developing ongoing skills, advancing in their profession, and not afraid to step out of their comfort zone. After all, it’s not easy to show up at a professional networking event, or an industry-related association and drum up conversation with strangers – even if one has the same career interests or passion.

“Joining associations helps broaden your knowledge beyond the classroom, and demonstrates to prospective employers that you’ve taken the initiative to learn more about the field, have ready access to resources for continuous learning, and have connections with other professionals who can guide and assist you,” says Baseil. “And, if you’re an active member in a volunteer role, you’re gaining valuable leadership skills that are critical to professional growth and can benefit your employer.”

How to get most out of professional/industry associations

So how can college students and recent college grads new to an industry association or networking group gain from joining these types of organizations? Consider these tips from Baseil.

  • Approach and be approachable: Try to get out of your comfort zone and approach others from a humanistic point of view. If you’re still unsure how to begin, develop a few talking points and a question or two to help guide the conversation. Just remember that the main goal of networking is to build deep and meaningful relationships, not ask for a job or obtain an interview immediately after you’ve met the person. This is essential to first-time networking success.
  • Be present: Even if you’re an introvert or generally not as skilled at networking, attend as many professional gatherings as possible because, after all, practice makes perfect. Attending events will help you continuously flex your networking muscles, help you effortlessly obtain business cards and contact information from others, and expand your external connections – making you a better professional for the long run.
  • Be responsive: Networking success also relies on how frequently you get in touch with people you’ve met throughout your career and how often you respond when they proactively reach out to you. As a young and busy professional, it might seem like a daunting task to check in or keep in touch with your network, but doing so – even if it’s a simple “congratulations on your promotion” message on social media – is invaluable. Proactively responding to important events or career advancements in your network keeps your relationships active, keeps you top-of-mind with professionals you met years ago, and can potentially open doors to new career opportunities.

If you’re thinking about joining an industry association, trade organization, or professional networking group, do it. The contacts, development and growth associations offer are invaluable – and costs are often limited. That’s an investment in one’s career that is too good to pass up.

Want more networking tips and advice on how to succeed in professional organizations? Follow CollegeRecruiter on TwitterLinkedInFacebook, and YouTube.


Richard Baseil is the Executive Director of IEEE’s Signal Processing Society.

Richard Baseil, Executive Director of IEEE’s Signal Processing Society.

About Richard Baseil
Richard Baseil is the Executive Director of IEEE’s Signal Processing Society. His 35 years of experience includes working for Bell Labs, Telcordia Technologies, The RAND Corporation, The MITRE Corporation and Cisco Systems. Baseil earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, magna cum laude and summa cum laude, in electrical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he also currently teaches as an adjunct professor.






Matt Krumrie

Matt Krumrie is a contributing writer for

About Ask Matt on
Ask Matt is a new monthly career advice column that offers tips and advice to recent college grads and entry-level job seekers. Have a question? Need job search or career advice? Email your question to Matt Krumrie for use in a future column.

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