In January, I will become a Chartered Chemist, following two years of on-the-job gathering of evidence that I have sufficiently developed 12 professional attributes and culminating in the ceremonial addition of the ‘CChem’ designatory letters to my email signature. But professional qualifications are so much more than just a trail of letters after your name.
Professional membership shows that your qualifications and experience are recognised and valued by your industry and that you are dedicated to continued professional development. Learning doesn’t stop after you leave university. Or at least it shouldn’t!
Membership is essential for some job functions
In some professions, such as pharmacy, membership of the profession’s governing body in your country is essential for performing certain job functions (such as dispensing in the case of pharmacists). For less vocational subjects, there is no requirement to join your professional body, however certain qualifications may only be obtainable via one of these institutions. For example, in the UK, those wishing to sit the exams to become a Qualified Person (one authorised to sign off medicines as fit for sale or supply, or for use in clinical trials) can only do so via the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Biology or the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
Get benefits, and boost your CV/Resume
In addition to qualifications, award schemes and free or discounted training, other benefits include access a wide knowledge base; the opportunity to network with likeminded professionals; keeping abreast of recent developments in your field; the potential to get involved in regional and sub-groups or steering committees, contributing directly to the running of your society; and, of course, career mentoring, notification of job opportunities and access to the right people if you’re looking for a job.
Being a member of your governing body is undeniably a CV/resume booster. If you’ve applied for a job and you don’t hold professional membership, the employer’s immediate question will be, why not? Can you not be bothered to be proactive about your career development? Many online application processes have a section for ‘professional qualifications and membership’; they’re not expecting it to be left blank.
Send a signal to your employer
Already happily in a job that you can’t see yourself leaving any time soon? Taking control of your career and your professional development shows your employer that you are ambitious and committed to bettering yourself professionally and that you are a valuable asset to their organisation and worth holding on to. Want a pay rise? Show them why you deserve it! You have to bring something to the table if you expect to get something back.
Making the investment
Membership isn’t cheap, but neither is it unaffordable (rates vary across institutions but standard membership, here in the UK at least, tends to be somewhere around the £100 p/a mark, student rates are significantly reduced). Most employers support CPD through external, recognised bodies and larger employers sometimes pay for some or all of employees’ professional membership fees, provided they are relevant to the job.
In a climate where thousands of well qualified people are scrambling for limited jobs, you simply can’t afford not to take advantage of every opportunity to add to your skill set and make yourself stand out. The resources are there, it’s up to you to take advantage of them.
Are you a member of your discipline’s governing body? Are you getting your money’s worth?