Judy Southwick is not like most people. She actually enjoys speaking in front of people. That love of speaking led her to Toastmasters, an organization that bolsters speaking skills.

But beyond the sheer fun of it, Southwick recommends membership in Toastmasters and other groups because they build all sorts of skills. Being active in any number of organizations can help the administrative assistant, professionally.

Membership Has Its Benefits

Activity in a professional organization delivers many skills for the admin.

"Toastmasters provides confidence," says Southwick, an international Toastmasters director who represents Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, the Dakotas, and two Canadian provinces.

Better yet, Southwick got promotions and more money because her speaking skills made her more marketable. It also has helped her work life because she can tap into a worldwide network of other Toastmasters members for help.

"It's helped my pocketbook and networking," she says.

Toastmasters meetings typically involve some of its members giving prepared speeches, and also delivering off-the-cuff, impromptu speeches, building quick thinking skills.

"The object is to stand there and say something intelligent for a minute," says Southwick.

In addition to speaking, members develop something that's tough to come by.

"All the while you're learning leadership skills," says Southwick.

Expand Your Network

Many admins are already members of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). And while that is a group worth joining, there are other organizations – like Toastmasters – that can help your professional life.

"Attend community groups and industry association meetings," says Kathy Northamer, vice president of OfficeTeam in the Twin Cities. "Make presentations on your area of expertise. Volunteer with a nonprofit. You'll not only gain new contacts, but acquire experience and work samples you can use to build your career."

Different organizations can offer different opportunities. But there is one thing they all have in common and it's something beneficial for the admin.

"Networking, networking, networking!" says Northamer. "The more contacts in your network who know you, the more likely you will secure leads, interviews and interesting job offers."

Reasons to Join a Professional Organization:

  • Personal and professional development resources.
  • Networking opportunities.
  • Professional certification that can help your career.
  • Service and support from the national organization.
  • Opportunities to develop one's leadership skills.
  • Discounts on related products and services.
  • Regular organization conferences.
  • Member publications.

Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer from Blaine.