A professional association (also called a professional body, professional institute, professional organisation, or professional society) is a non-profit organisation seeking to further a particular profession, the interests of the individuals engaged in that profession and the public interest First and foremost being a member of a professional society establishes one as a career professional. You officially have demonstrated your interest and commitment to advancing the field, and you have ensured your ability to connect with the mainstream of the profession. This connectivity leads to another advantage of joining a professional society- that of networking. Professional societies encourage the gathering of intelligent, like-minded professionals who are immersed in the subject matter to exchange ideas, theories and opinions. These discussions may lead to the development of new and/or expanded collaborations. While ever-expanding information technologies abound, the opportunity to cull through this information and examine it through intellectual discourse is critical. Again, the professional society offers such a forum- through professional meetings, workshops and discussions. Another, sometimes overlooked, advantage of joining a professional society is that it affords you the opportunity to demonstrate leadership among your peers. Whether serving as a reviewer of articles, an organiser of a meeting, or serving as an officer in the organisation, there are multiple opportunities for one to step up and lead. Such evidence of peer respect and endorsement is invaluable, regardless of where one is in his/her career path. Both prospective and current employers as well as clients seek to recruit/retain individuals who demonstrate high standing in their profession. Beyond the self-enhancement and relational benefits of belonging to a professional society, the definition of a professional includes a responsibility to contribute to the health and well-being of the profession itself. After all, if those who have identified themselves with a particular field are not interested in its future evolution, how can we expect others to care? Professional societies offer a collective voice to advocate for a vision of the future and for activities required to sustain and advance the field to a variety of audiences. Let's move from generalities to the specifics regarding the status of government relations today and beyond. With all the positives [personal fulfillment, a sense of belonging, better understanding of the field, building interpersonal relationships that  in the end may strongly shape one's future] associated with membership and the imperatives associated with a rapidly changing government relations field, I encourage you to seek out new members for AALEP so that as the professional society of skilled government relations practitioners, we are better positioned to provide the leadership required for an ever-changing future.   

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