Do You Pay For Any Professional Association Memberships?

My degree is in International Marketing. I double majored in German, too. I double minored in Math and French. Let me tell you, I never in a million years thought I’d be the girl in the cell phone shop post-graduation.  I had my sights set high.  As I´ve told y´all before, graduating at the height of the recession did me no favors and I ended up back home after college, thankful to eventually be recruited to work at the cell phone store.

In reality, it turns out I´m really good at sales, and the pay has been much better than that of any of my peers who don´t have post graduate degrees.  But after 6 years, I´m sick of it.  In August 2013  I started looking–seriously looking–for a new job.  I got on every day and diligently filled out about 5 applications a day, most days of the week.  For a year.  I only ever got one interview, and it ended abruptly when they asked me how much I currently make.  The lady said, at most, she could offer me half of what I´m making now, so no use in wasting anyone´s time.  I also applied for 22 management positions in the retail channel of the cell phone company, and went on almost as many interviews.  Never got any of them.  Talk about feeling like a loser…

Enter Michael´s aunt Michelle.  She owns a marketing firm in Houston that is stupidly successful.  It´s just her and Michael´s cousin who run it.  I think they have maybe 2 or 3 other people working part-time.  I don´t know.  They all work from home and their jobs sound wonderful.  I asked Michelle to hire me.  She said I´d have to move to Houston.  Even though they all work remotely (from home), they do meet with each other and with clients regularly, so me not living in Houston would be a pain for them.

Well, I put her offer on the backburner, thinking that after Michael graduates (May 2016), if I hadn´t found something great, I´d go to her.  Meanwhile, she´s super involved with the American Marketing Association in Houston.  She told me that anybody who´s anybody in the marketing world is in the AMA and that I should join the New Orleans chapter.  I did.  She sent out great emails about me to her marketing buddies in NOLA.  They responded positively, that I sounded great, and if they had an opening they would let her know.

I´ll read these one day.

I´ll read these one day.

Did I mention that to join the AMA was like $300?  Yeah.  It was painful.  It was even more painful when I learned that to attend their events you have to pay hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to go.  (That´s the “discounted” members´ fee.  Non-members can still go, but pay more.)  Also, the New Orleans chapter is not very active, and only had a handful of events throughout the year.  You know what I got for my $300?  A stack of magazines I haven´t touched.  I did notice through Aunt Michelle´s facebook that the Houston chapter is super, super active.  She attends their events all the time, and there are luncheons, and dinners and cocktail hours and awards ceremonies.  In NOLA there was like one luncheon every other month, if that.  I felt like my $300 had been totally wasted.  I did put that I was an AMA member on my resumé… don´t know how impressive that seems.

Now you might say that the membership being a waste was my fault.  I should have paid to go to the meetings and network with the people.  They would have liked me and hired me on the spot!  Maybe, but I don´t have that much money allotted for my “professional development.”  You say that I should have read all the magazines, cover to cover, to be better informed about the industry!  Maybe, but how would anyone know how well informed I was if I wasn´t even getting interviews?

Well, fast forward to now.  As you all know, I got a marketing job with the cell phone company, in Houston–that will hopefully lead to something long-term–and I couldn´t be happier!  Aaannnnnd Aunt Michelle is now the president-elect for the AMA Houston chapter.  She wants me to join so I can go to all their things.  Realistically, I´d be willing to take a good marketing job with any company, I don’t have to stay with the cell phone company, so I see the benefit of continuing to network.  I also see the benefit of going to these seminars and stuff to learn more about the industry.

I asked her if she can get me a free membership. She said not exactly, but that I could attend events as her company’s guest. Then I emailed my new boss and asked her if she’s ever been involved with the AMA and if she thought a membership would be worthwhile. Then I had the bright idea to ask her if the cell phone company could sponsor my membership. She quickly responded that we could look into it once I started. This is good.

Hopefully the cell phone company will sponsor my membership, and entrance fees to all the events. Or maybe Aunt Michelle can get me in. If it were all free, I would definitely be interested in attending everything. But if not, should I pay for the membership myself, out of pocket, and for all the events? Are professional association memberships worthwhile? Do you pay for any memberships like this? If so, have you reaped real benefits?

16 thoughts on “Do You Pay For Any Professional Association Memberships?

  1. I think it depends on the network. I find I get a lot more opportunities from people I know rather than traditional applications. But that doesn’t necessarily require an expensive membership. I’ve found professional events like conferences to be extremely worthwhile.


    • I definitely know networking is valuable, I just don’t know how much I’m willing to pay to do it. Maybe I’ll start looking for conferences with lower attendance fees. Thanks, Stefanie!


  2. I have paid for legal association memberships in the past, but I don’t any longer. I attended a few seminars and continuing education classes, but other than required credits, I didn’t get much out of my memberships. So in my experience, they weren’t worth the money.

    I do think, however, that it depends on the person. I am an introvert and despise networking, but a coworker of mine is very outgoing and gets a lot out of his professional associations.


    • Thanks for reading, Jessica! I agree that it definitely depends on the personality. I’m pretty introverted, but I know that networking can be hugely beneficial so maybe one of my goals in 2015 will be to come out of my shell a bit and take advantage of anything that’s free. I might wait til I build up my confidence a bit more before I commit to paying for one of these things again.


  3. I’m a member of several professional organizations, primarily because in academia you are generally not allowed to present a paper at a conference or access a job board unless you’re a member of the organization sponsoring it 🙂 Costs are lower, though; I spent about $200 a year total as a graduate student for 3-4 organizations, and now more like $300 a year for 2-3 orgs, which my employers have covered for the last two years, although universities don’t always do this. Benefits are generally: being able to present at the conference if you’re accepted (good for raising your profile, meeting new people — doesn’t usually lead directly to $$ opportunities, but is generally good for your career); a printed and/or online subscription to a journal; and (crucial for me right now) access to the job-posting boards.

    It was a really good idea to ask your employer to cover it — keep doing that, asking them to cover things, call it “professional development”. Worst they can say is no, right?


    • You’re right. The job posting boards are a huge benefit. I foolishly never once looked at them, and stuck to Indeed. I’m hoping my boss will agree to pay for the membership for 2015, and I’ll promise myself to better take advantage of the included benefits. Thanks for the comment 🙂


  4. I have been in the American Optometric Association since I was in optometry school. It is not cheap. It has a graduated dues schedule that increases the longer you’re in practice. Since I’m what we’d call “seasoned” it runs about $2000 a year now. Is is worth it? I think so because it gives me about half price on malpractice and disability insurance, and they are the group that keeps other professions and politicians from changing laws that would limit my ability to write prescriptions. They also do cheap continuing ed events several times a year. I have never gotten a job directly through AOA, but they would try to help me if it came to that. I think if the chapter is active and you can meet and network with people who might help you up the ladder, I’d give it a shot whether it was out of pocket or not. Of course, if your company paid, that’s a bonus.


    • Wow! $2000/year is a lot! In your case it definitely sounds worth it, as a business expense, especially if it makes your insurance cheaper. I know that’s expensive! It sounds like the AOA is definitely important, and powerful in your field. I’m just trying to assess if the AMA is similarly important in marketing. I think I will join this year, and be as involved as possible in the chapter, and then really reassess for 2016. Thanks for the comment, Kim!


  5. I have never been in the position to need to pay these types of fees, but I think its awesome that you were able to get a job that you love. I have heard depending on the type of career you have, joining these types of associations can be very beneficial. Good luck with everything.


  6. Hmm, I don’t belong to any paid associations. I recently learned what membership for the national PR association costs (I’m not in PR but am in a close field) and did a bit of a double take. I dunno, I’m personally sceptical but all depends on the specifics. I definitely feel for more creative fields they are more likely to be a waste of money and these days you can connect with so many people online.


    • That’s true. Connections and relationships are key, for sure, but there are ways to accomplish that without paying for traditional association memberships. Thanks for stopping by!


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