Editor’s note: Any long-term relationship has its ups and downs, whether it be with a significant other or family, with friends, at work or, in case of ASJA, professional. And relationships do count, especially with an organization such as ASJA, which provides the unique opportunity to convene with others who are doing the same thing as you in a profession that can be isolating, especially if you are freelancing. But magic only happens if you work at it, as ASJA President Milt Toby points out in this thought-provoking column.
As President of ASJA, I am frequently asked: Why join ASJA? What’s in it for me?
Fair questions, and the stock answer—that all those benefits of membership are a bargain—doesn’t tell the full story. Nor does linking the annual dues payment to a typical return-on-investment analysis that simply weighs the dues against any new clients and increased income realized during the membership year. The problem with such a simplistic approach is that it doesn’t take into account the long-term value of ASJA’s unparalleled networking opportunities, some of which almost certainly will not immediately generate a well-paying assignment or a new client.
Whether they realize it or not, members are most successful when they commit to a long-term relationship with ASJA, not just a one-night stand. In fact, a successful relationship probably would be better characterized as a partnership instead of the uncomfortable feeling that you’re just another member of another organization. And like any good relationship, a member’s tenure with ASJA works best when both sides contribute to its success.
The origin of the well-used computer science axiom “garbage in, garbage out” is uncertain, although IBM programmer and teacher George Fuechsel generally is given credit for coining “GIGO” sometime during the 1980s. For those who are not conversant in geek, the phrase simply means that the quality of a computer program’s output is totally dependent on the quality of the information given to the program by the operator. For a member of ASJA, the GIGO analogy is straightforward: what you get out of your ASJA membership is directly related to what you put into it.
ASJA’s professional members can meet face-to-face with 60-plus editors, agents, and content buyers during Client Connections at the annual conference in New York and online throughout the year during Virtual Client Connections and Virtual Pitch Slams. Associate members can sit in on many of the virtual networking programs and members at both levels can take advantage of educational sessions at both the national conference and regional conferences for discounted registration.
Offering these opportunities is ASJA’s contribution to the membership bargain; taking advantage of them is the responsibility of the members. There is no guarantee that a Client Connections appointment will result in an assignment or a client, but it is an absolute certainty that an appointment not made will produce nothing for the member. On the other hand, members who put in the effort to sign up for the client-facing programs, or who join (or better yet, lead) a Special Interest Group (SIG), or who attend educational sessions and actively network at conferences, or who read the array of print and digital publications from ASJA are the members most likely to succeed.
Be that member! And the next time you wonder—or are asked—about the value of ASJA membership, think about how much effort you’ve put into the equation. The act of joining, whether at the professional or associate level, is just the beginning. The rest is up to you.