Earlier this summer, I bit the bullet and decided to join my state’s occupational therapy association. Although it was only a relatively inexpensive $45, I went back and forth for a while before I finally decided to join. Part of my hesitation was quite selfish in nature – I wondered what was this organization going to do for me. Another part was financial – just think of all the fun I could have with that $45! In the end, I finally committed and registered to become an official member of my state OT association. What changed my mind, you may ask?
Read on to find out!
- Strengthening My Resume. Although I currently have a variety of fieldwork and employment experiences on my resume, I feel that being able to list my status as a member of the state association demonstrates to potential employers my commitment to the profession. I also hope to become an OT leader in the future, and working alongside current OT/As on the Board of my state association gives me an inside look at the kinds of leadership and professional skills that will benefit me when I start fieldwork, begin working as a new grad, and eventually assume leadership positions in the field!
- Professional Development Opportunities: As a member of the state OTA, I have gotten the opportunity to meet and work with AOTA Emerging Leaders, OT/A program presidents, and my state representative on the AOTA Representative Assembly. All of these people have imparted valuable wisdom to me, and I look forward to a future in which I will have such positive and influential people in my corner. These people may also be great resources for when I start job hunting in just a few short months!
- Using My Skills for the Greater Good: This is related to Reason #1 – but in addition to having something to put on my resume, by joining and working with members of my professional association I am helping inform, educate, and make a difference for students and practitioners in my state and elsewhere. You can do the same by donating your time and talents to your state association. Are you a computer genius? Perhaps you can help keep your state OT association’s website updated. Have experience in marketing? Offer to help manage your state’s social media feeds and promote the profession. Even just one hour a week spent volunteering to support your state OT association can help out immensely and help you by building your resume as well!
- Protecting the Future of OT: My membership dollars are helping to pay for our state’s OT lobbyist. Without her, OTs in my state likely would not have a voice in political happenings that affect us, including healthcare and other legislation. Our lobbyist helps ensure that OT is included in important decisions, that we are not edged out by other professions, and that state decision makers understand the distinct value of OT. By maintaining my membership in the state OT association, I am helping ensure that my profession is protected today and in the future!
- Saving Money (and Earning Money): As a student, I get discounts on conference registration and conference presenter fees, as well as being eligible for various state scholarships when they are offered. For less than $50 per year – at the discounted student membership rate! – I could save at least $30-35 on conference registration fees alone, not to mention the possibility of earning thousands of dollars in scholarship money!
Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to join your state OT association is your own. I totally understand not wanting to shell out another chunk of change to join yet another OT organization (especially after paying SOTA dues, AOTA membership fees, and possibly even school-related fees!), but I really do think it can be worth it.
Remember, it’s whatever you make of it – you can choose to just pay your dues and go about your merry business. But you will benefit most from your membership by getting involved – even if it’s just to volunteer at your state association’s annual conference for a day – and actively contributing to their goals and mission!
Finally, if you do join, don’t be afraid to speak up! Student perspectives are often very highly valued by OT/A leaders, and your voice and opinions (and those of your classmates) can help them better understand and then MEET your needs as students in your state.
With that, I encourage you to go forth, join your state association, and start making the most of your membership today!