WHY YOU SHOULD JOIN YOUR PROFESSIONAL BODY

I am very pleased to say that last week I was awarded fellowship of the Institute of Physics (IOP).  This is something I have worked towards since finishing my first degree and I am very proud to be able to say that I am now a fellow of the IOP. 

Fellowship is the highest grade of membership in the IOP, if you want to know more about fellowship of the IOP: https://www.iop.org/membership/join/fellow/page_51405.html

I have been a member of 4 different professional bodies over my career, joining and leaving as my job has altered.  The one staple in the last 20 something years has been the IOP. I joined the IOP during the first week of my physics degree, to be fully honest I didn't realise exactly what they did at that point, but they offered me a monthly physics magazine, the best paper diary I have ever used and all for £16 for a 4 year membership. Bargain. Yes, this was back in the 90's when paper diaries were a thing and no, they haven't sent them out for years.  However, I was very glad that I decided to join as the benefits are far wider ranging than I could have imagined. 

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I am going to discuss a few benefits of belonging to your professional body and some specific examples where I have benefited. 

 

INFORMATION AND CONTINUED LEARNING

Your professional body is at the forefront of the research being conducted and they provide you with ways of interacting with this information and learning opportunities.

I get a huge amount of information on all sorts of physics topics from the IOP members magazine Physics World, which now has an excellent website for you to understand all things physics.  The careers and job adverts in the magazine helped me form some kind of idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated, and then again when I was changing careers.  There are many excellent CPD opportunities to be had.  I have also attended the lectures ran by the IOP in regional branches for the last 20 years. This year I have embarked on my own tour of the IOP branches doing these exact same lectures and am thoroughly enjoying them. 

 

NETWORKING

Your professional body is full of ways to network with different groups of people. 

These can be formal meals, awards ceremonies, subject meetings, business meetings, public lectures, groups, online communities to name a few. 

I have met some valuable and supportive people through the IOP, that I would simply not have met otherwise.  These have been fellow members of the IOP, but also the excellent staff that are employed by the IOP.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that meeting people is important for all different reasons: connecting with like minded people, identifying chartership and fellowship supporters, establishing new business leads, finding new collaborators, re-connecting with people from your degree. 

 

HELP AND SUPPORT

Your professional body is a good place to turn to for professional help. 

They will have resources that cover a whole range of things like careers, places to work, average wages in different sectors, relevant continued professional development, benefits.  If you are ever in the unfortunate position of needing support because of inappropriate behaviour at work, they can help you. 

I have received a lot of help and support from the IOP.  Sometimes from information in the magazines or websites, sometimes in person.  They have helped me with tricky job changes, career progression, professional registration, business skills, technical knowledge, committee experience, board level experience.   

 

EXPERIENCES

Your professional body will open up a whole range of experiences that you can embrace. 

This could include outreach work, school talks, careers fairs, committee memberships, public speaking, board level positions.  These are great ways to build your CV and often give you opportunities that would be otherwise difficult to get.

My time with the IOP has allowed me to complete a range of outreach work and to meet and inspire students and the public with a love of physics.  I have had the opportunity to sit on boards that decide the future of the IOP and help people gain professional registration.  Last year I was voted onto the committee of the IOP, a trustee board level position, a position that would be difficult for me to gain in other sectors.

 

PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION AND EXPERTISE

One of the main reasons for joining your professional body is for professional recognition. 

Being a member shows you are connected to your industry and keeping up to date in your field and relevant areas.  There are different levels of membership suitable for different stages of your career.  They also allow you to gain chartership, which allows your competence to be formally recognised.  Some professional bodies also offer teaching qualifications. 

Through the IOP I have gained Chartered status in both physics (2011) and engineering (2016).  Chartership status has had a positive impact on my career, there was a change in how some people at work interacted with me after I got chartership.  As mentioned at the beginning I have just been awarded Fellowship (2019).  It is too early days to know if fellowship will have a similar impact as chartership has, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t. 

 

IN SUMMARY

If you are not already a member go and join your professional body now.  Remember, most employers pay the cost of membership, so there can only be positive outcomes. 

Sometimes it can be difficult to join your professional body, as you need a supporter.  As long as I meet the requirements, I am happy to act as a supporter for people I have worked with wanting to join the IOP.  This means, if I have worked with you for over a year and you want to apply to be a member or apply for chartership drop me a line.  If I have worked with you for over 2 years and you want to be a fellow, drop me a line.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you.