Early in my logistics career I had the opportunity to attend my first industry association conference. I was a logistics analyst at the time, and I was fortunate to have two respected logistics professionals as mentors. They taught me how to get the most out of that conference, and the value of the association membership for both me and our company. Those lessons are as important today as they were when I learned them back in the '90s.
Logistics and supply chain is a global, multifaceted career field, so participation in an industry association is a excellent vehicle for an individual to get involved and make a difference. An association brings together like minded individuals striving toward common goals and increases the effect of each person's effort. I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of industry associations - NITL, CSCMP, T&LC and NASSTRAC. Each association has a different mission and value proposition, so it is important to find one that best meets the needs of you and your company. Once you find that association, your involvement needs to go beyond just paying your annual dues if you want to maximize that value.
There are certain association membership benefits, like access to industry information and resources, that are fairly automatic. But if you want to grow your network and grow your influence, as well as your knowledge, you need to participate in the association.
Participation can take many forms depending on your current position and abilities. When I first joined NASSTRAC, I attended the conference and worked to expand both my knowledge and my professional network. As I gained experience, I joined the Education Committee so that I could participate in designing the educational offerings to meet my needs as a shipper. I eventually went on to join the NASSTRAC Board and to chair the Education Committee. The more involved I become, the greater the benefits are for me and my employer.
I volunteer my time and effort to the association because of the industry value they provide. My efforts are combined with those of the other members, and the results are greater than I could have accomplished individually. This is particularly effective in the area of government policy and regulation, where an association represents the unified voice of its membership for the overall good of the industry.
The annual NASSTRAC Shippers Conference and Transportation Expo happened last week, and I put together my personal agenda and goals for the conference. I value this opportunity to discuss industry issues and challenges with other shippers, to share new ideas and best practices, and to get a thorough industry update and forecast of what is on the horizon. I returned to the office with actionable "take aways" that will help me achieve my annual goals, as well as the industry knowledge to be proactive, rather than reactive, to upcoming industry changes. And I did it in two and a half days. That is the real value of being involved.