Skip to content

Staying Organized: The Importance of Professional Organizations in New Careers

Mar 23, 2022
STV Employees at CMAA Chicago

When early career professionals enter the industry, often their network consists of former classmates and coworkers. That’s why, as they start their exciting new positions, it’s also important for them to seek out professional organizations that will in turn, allow them to connect with peers and mentors while also pursuing leadership opportunities that can supplement both their professional standing, and their experience.

In 1988 I joined Construction Management Association of America’s (CMAA) New York Metro/New Jersey chapter. My first responsibilities with CMAA included helping to grow our membership, but I soon entered the association’s officer track, ultimately serving as secretary, treasurer and vice president, before being named chapter president. From there, I’ve advanced my standing with CMAA to include serving on its national board of directors and currently, the chairman of its board of governors.

Whether they’re dedicated to an industry, profession or a demographic, organizations like CMAA are valuable because they provide participants with opportunities to meet likeminded people who can also help each other stay up to date on current business trends and standards. By attending meetups and mixer events, participants are also able to make new contacts that can develop into lifelong relationships. I was shy when I was younger and just starting my career, but it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes a connection can be made just by dropping off a business card.

Additionally, these organizations help you market yourself. Each time you join a committee, present at a conference, sit on a panel, or write an article, you’re getting your name out and letting your peers know and establish a trust in you. You’ll be growing your network – including with others in our industry who can be potential collaborators on the projects we work in. In that regard, your participation is also helping to market our firm and brand and showcasing STV’s dedication to the industry and to potential clients.

Leadership roles in these organizations can help develop a strong foundation for your career, and it’s never too early to start. If an opportunity springs up sooner than expected, take advantage of it, and get on track to move up within the organization as you work with new people and take part in new committees. Once you start on that local level, you can then grow your network on a national level.

Sometimes, the right organization pops up for undergraduate and graduate students who’ve been part of a student chapter or who received guidance by their college advisors. To find the best fit for you, get in touch with classmates and colleagues to see where they might be involved, or ask your supervisor for suggestions. You can also seek out organizations online and target your industry or role. In some regions, such as New York, there are a lot of competing organizations, but it’s best to choose just one, and devote your time to it.

It’s important to remember that while organizations can be an important tool at the start of a new career, it’s also never too late to sign up. For mid and senior-level professionals with extensive experience, it can still provide further immersion and invaluable insight into your field.

Raoul Ilaw

Raoul Ilaw is a vice president and project executive in STV’s Northeast construction management group. He has more than 30 years of construction industry experience and is a long-time member and steward for CMAA. Additionally, he has taken part in many major New York-area projects that made the region’s infrastructure more resilient following 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, and also led the design team’s observation program, for the $1.4 billion Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal One. For the Newark project, his team reviewed construction-related documentation, verified that non-conformance issues were sufficiently addressed, and conducted project walkthroughs prior to certifying certain design elements before building occupancy.