A frequent focus of discussion between members of the Executive Committee and the AAPG staff is membership – how to better serve it, of course, but also how to grow it and retain it.
It certainly was a hot topic of discussion at the two AAPG House of Delegates mid-year meetings I attended, as well as at the Corporate Advisory Board (CAB) meeting I attended in November.
During November’s CAB meeting a point was made that industry appears to place less value on membership in professional societies than it did years ago when many of our CAB members joined AAPG – circa 1980. At that time, geoscientists were strongly encouraged to attend luncheon meetings of local associations and be actively involved in one or more professional associations.
Perhaps this was the prevalent corporate attitude, because at that time AAPG and our affiliated and sister societies were the main sources of technical information.
Personally, at my company (Cities Service) I was encouraged to attend any and all local lectures, short courses and field trips and to be actively involved with professional associations. I also was strongly supported by my company when I wanted to give presentations at both local society meetings and at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition. My bosses viewed geoscientists giving professional presentations and writing papers as good PR for the company.
But in today’s “lean and mean” working environment, geoscientists more often are supported to be active in professional associations as long as it is on their own time – and it does not interfere with getting their work done.
Today technical information is readily available from a number of sources to geoscientists: the Internet, corporate subscriptions to Datapages and other online libraries. AAPG even gives away to the public much cutting-edge technical information via Search and Discovery.
So, from both a corporate and an individual viewpoint, perhaps it is not necessary to belong to any professional association to stay technically competent.
But if I can get my technical information elsewhere and if the value of membership in professional associations – and more importantly, the value of active participation in professional associations – is no longer recognized as having good value to our companies, then why belong to AAPG?
This is something I’ve pondered a lot the past year.
Here’s what I think.
Often when I attend conferences on behalf of AAPG I’m asked to address the value of membership in AAPG. And while I believe membership in AAPG has a lot of value to offer (for pretty low dues), I believe our most valuable asset is our community. We are an incredible, diverse, global community of talented, creative, passionate, fun-loving geoscientists, and I’m very grateful to be part of this community.
AAPG has allowed me to build a diverse network of colleagues and friends. I have this wonderful group of geoscientists that I can contact if I need some data or to find out what is happening, or if I want help solving a perplexing problem, or to help me make sure my lectures are up-to-date and relevant.
As we all know, the petroleum industry that employs many of us is highly cyclical in terms of business and employment opportunities – and currently we are in a bit of a downswing. Most companies have reduced the number of new hires and some have implemented job freezes.
If the price of oil continues to drop, at what point will companies start laying-off geoscientists?
During the downturns (and also the upturns), the next job opportunity you have could well come from someone in your AAPG network – yes, that same network that many of you have cultivated at local, national and international meetings without ever thinking that you personally would one day be looking for a friendly hand.
What else does our AAPG community have to offer?
Many have found it to be a place to develop and hone communication, management and leadership skills. If you want the chance to showcase your capabilities, AAPG could very well provide the setting.
Also importantly, AAPG is where we can demonstrate these abilities before our employers may be willing to provide such opportunities. (And AAPG staff is working on additional ways that we can help develop these soft skills that are so important to a geoscientist’s career.)
The importance of mentoring and leadership is something that is definitely on our CAB members’ minds, perhaps because, like many in our profession they are close to retirement and concerned about the “passing of the baton” to the next generation of leaders.
Overall, the CAB sees mentoring and facilitating opportunities to develop and demonstrate leadership as something that makes AAPG relevant to our industry.
An added benefit that at least one of our members subscribes to is that now, no matter where her business takes her, she has people to contact to find out about opportunities and about possible contacts.
This member also said wherever she travels she has friends to meet and places to stay. Her AAPG network has not only contributed to her business opportunities, it has made her business (and vacation) travel more convenient and enjoyable.
The bottom line is this: Even if corporations do not view membership in professional associations to be as important as they once did, active participation in them is still extremely important to us as individual geoscientists.
We are responsible for ourselves and for how we develop as professionals and for how our careers develop and progress.
So, why join AAPG and be an active member?
Because active membership in AAPG will help you become the best geoscientist you can be.
It will help you develop as a professional geoscientist.
It will allow you to create the career that is best for you – and possibly (probably?) connect you with some great life-long friends.
And I’m sure that for many of you, these reasons are just the start to many other benefits. After all, we know better than anyone that digging a bit deeper often brings even more rewards.
AAPG membership – it’s a good message to know. And at the start of a new year, it’s a good message to share.
Active participation in professional associations is still extremely important to us as individual geoscientists.