We hear a lot about the importance of joining a professional organization, like ACES and the Editorial Freelancers Association. Not only do these organizations seek to further our industry, but editorial professionals can also gain so much from them.
These days, though, editors have a plethora of choices when it comes to joining organizations to further their careers. Which should you join? Should you join more than one?
Each of us has a different situation. Some of us work in-house; others freelance. Some editors do more than one type of editing (e.g., developmental editing and copyediting), others do more than editing (e.g., writing and editing), and still others focus on one type of editing (e.g., copyediting).
The right organization for you will address your needs. As you review the different organizations, consider the mix of benefits each offers. For example, many professional organizations offer one or more of the following:
- A job list
- A member directory
- Discounts on or free training
- Networking opportunities
- Discounts on conferences (the organization’s and others’)
- Group insurance
- Increased visibility within the membership
- Increased visibility with the general public
- Professional status
To compare organizations, consider how many of the benefits you will realistically use. It’s great when an organization offers group insurance, but do you need it? Why go with a more expensive organization just because it offers insurance you don’t need?
Here are some more questions to consider about the most desired benefits:
- Does the job list have the kind of jobs you’re looking for? Are the ads usually for the types of jobs or clients you want? Or are they jobs you wouldn’t apply for?
- Does the directory get a lot of visitors? Being listed in a directory is great—as long as your target audience actually visits the site and finds you.
- Is the proffered training something you want to take? And if it’s not free (and it’s not always), is it affordable?
- Are the networking opportunities ones you can participate in? If networking events are always Wednesdays at lunchtime and you’re never available on Wednesdays, the events won’t help you.
- Will the people you’d network with help you reach your goals? It’s fine to get to know lots of editors for camaraderie and support, whether it’s within an organization or in a discussion group. But if you’re counting on the networking you do within an organization to produce career results, you need to think about the makeup of the group.
An organization may not fit your needs perfectly. That’s fine. You’re looking for the best fit, not the perfect fit. Weigh the options and determine which organization will give you the best bang for your buck. If you have more bucks to spend and more than one organization will help you, join more than one.
All of this isn’t to say you can’t join an organization simply because you like the people involved and you’ll have fun being with them. That’s a perfectly legitimate reason to join a group. But if you’re counting your pennies, it’s important to know why you’re joining an organization and ensure you get what you want from it.
Each person’s needs are different. Determine what yours are and which organizations will best fulfill them. Then join and participate!
You may be asking where Copyediting fits in with all this. We are a private company whose mission is to support editors with publications and training. While what we offer overlaps with member organizations, we aren’t a member organization. We don’t have an elected leadership and we don’t offer benefits like a member directory, a code of ethics, or group insurance. As editors, however, we are fully invested in seeing our craft and industry blossom. We partner with member organizations to help the industry grow.
Which is why in the coming months, we’ll be moving our terminology away from membership toward more precise language. (We’re editors, too; we’re always tinkering to get the meaning across better.) Stay tuned!