Getting involved in trade organizations can often prove to be an invaluable career-building tool with both anticipated and unanticipated benefits, yet I see far too many young AEC professionals failing to take advantage. So, without further ado, here are the top five reasons those starting out in the AEC or really any industry should strongly consider joining their respective trade organizations.

1. Leadership Opportunities

Young employees don’t often get chances to take on leadership opportunities at their full-time jobs, because they are new in their careers and there are already people in those positions. Industry organizations, however, are volunteer-based and often in need of people to take on various roles.  Volunteering when you are new in your career will enable you to hone core leadership skills in a fairly low-risk environment.

2. Exposure to New Perspectives

It is all too easy for young professionals to get caught up in their own bubble and their own company’s ways of doing and looking at things. Becoming active in industry organizations immediately opens your mind and exposes you to new ideas and perspectives from not just other companies, but from people in other industry roles as well. Oftentimes, you can then take what you’ve learned and apply it in your everyday thinking to add value and help you do your job more effectively.

It is all too easy for young professionals to get caught up in their own bubble and their own company’s ways of doing and looking at things.

3. Public Speaking Opportunities

While often dreaded, particularly by those just starting out in their careers, public speaking is an incredibly important skill that can have an enormous impact on your degree of success in any industry. Mastering it requires a level of confidence that can only come from a lot of practice, and industry organizations and their many speaking engagements certainly provide those opportunities.

4. Grow Your Network

It is impossible to overstate the importance of beginning to build a network early. The connections and relationships you establish now can pay dividends for the rest of your career. Many of the people you interact with in industry organizations are, or will become, highly influential decision makers who can become lifelong advocates for your career.

5. Mentorship

While a lot of companies offer mentorship programs to help young employees become acclimated to their roles, industry organizations provide a different, often more informal type of mentor/mentee relationship that can last a lifetime. Again, with these organizations being volunteer-based, you’re afforded the opportunity to learn from others in similar or related roles in a comparatively low-risk environment. I was fortunate enough to experience that type of guidance early in my career and am now honored to be providing it to others entering our industry today.

In closing, while the reasons to become involved in industry organizations should now seem obvious, it’s important to note that you won’t necessarily see all the benefits overnight. However, if you approach your involvement with the right mindset and handle your assigned responsibilities well, you will reap the rewards now and well into the future.


  • Jessica Kelley

    Operational Excellence Manager

    As Operational Excellence Manager for Southland Industries, Jessica Kelley uses her experience to grow and refine the organization’s Operational Excellence strategy in order to support lean thinking at the individual, project and organizational levels to achieve business objectives in safety, customer experience, employee engagement and financial results. Ms. Kelley received her bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering with a focus in mechanical from The Pennsylvania State University and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of California.

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