22 June 2020

Seven Ways to Leverage Your AAS Membership

Alaina G. Levine

I’m sure you are familiar with your discounted registration rates for the AAS Meetings, but did you know there is so much more to your AAS membership? In fact, the AAS, like most professional societies, offers a plethora of benefits for its members, with a goal of helping you achieve success in myriad ways. Not surprisingly, the AAS has a stake in ensuring the triumph and advancement of astronomy, astrophysics, planetary science, and related fields, and as such, aims to provide mechanisms to help those in our community, whether you are emerging or established, professional or amateur, or a student or the leader of a multimillion dollar telescope mission. When you click “Join” on the AAS website, you are taken to https://aas.org/join/overview-benefits, and you find this statement: “Supporting your Society is supporting your discipline — and also empowering your Society to support you, in your research, teaching, professional activities, and career pursuits.” I think these words sum up an important feature of your membership: it is a win-win partnership between you and your society and you both help each other triumph!

So with this in mind, here are a few ways you can leverage your AAS membership to ensure you not only get the most out of your society, but are also able to give back in ways that help everybody. One thing to consider: the Society has several different membership categories, so be sure to review what specific benefits are associated with your own membership.

  1. Become an engaged member: It is important to not just to passively join the AAS, but to let your membership team know you want to be an engaged member. Reach out to the director of membership services, Diane Frendak, and let her know that you are enthusiastic about serving YOUR society and would like to speak with her about how you can get involved, give back, and volunteer. She will be thrilled to chat with you and help you understand how you can make the most of your membership.
  2. Access the membership directory: Learn who the members are, where they work, and who might be a potential collaborator. One of the most valuable benefits of being associated with the AAS is that you have access to the contact information of practically every member. Peruse the Membership Directory to find people in your community who are working on projects and in subfields that are of interest to you. Ask for “informal discussions”. When you reach out to members for these chats, be confident in the knowledge that you are not intruding or “interrupting” their day by contacting them. They listed their names and contact data in the directory for a specific purpose — they want to be contacted, because they too want to expand their networks and seek out new career opportunities. In other words, they want to network with you just as much as you want to network with them. Reviewing the AAS Membership Directory is also useful to get a better sense of how the field stands, and what subfields are attracting members. You can do detailed searches for individuals, disciplines, and other parameters. And when you reach out to a member, don’t forget to let them know that you found them in the Membership Directory — this is a bond you share!
  3. Volunteer on committees and task forces: Look for opportunities to give back to the AAS and establish yourself as a leader. Volunteering for non-profit organizations within my own fields has given me access to numerous hidden career opportunities and helped me craft strategically important networks. Consider volunteering to serve on committees and task forces. Volunteers are the lifeblood of an organization and yet very few members take advantage of the opportunity. But from your perspective, it also gives you incredible access to how the AAS operates, the ability to gain knowledge and skills in leadership, communications, and project management, the chance to have a real say in how your society is moving forward, and the opportunity to network and highlight your capabilities to others in your field. In short, serving on committees is a real career booster for many reasons!
  4. Seek career services: Discover who’s hiring, and how you can position yourself for success. Not every association has a career services center. But the AAS does and you should take full advantage of the offerings. AAS offers a Job Register, career-planning and career development resources, and other opportunities for you to advance your professional goals, such as professional development webinars and workshops
  5. Apply for and nominate others for awards: The AAS has many award programs you can and should consider, not just for your colleagues, but also for yourself. Many of the award categories allow for self-nomination. And when you win an award, it is one way that the community recognizes the work you do as significant and of value. But even if you don’t win, you have now shared the details of your credentials and achievements with a committee that manages the awards. This is excellent and totally appropriate marketing! And don't forget that nominations for AAS 2021 honors, prizes, and awards are due by 30 June 2020.
  6. Participate in Divisions: One of the really fabulous aspects of the AAS’s organizational structure is the Divisions which focus on different subfields. By joining, volunteering, attending meetings (virtual or in-person), and becoming active in leading within these sections, you are gaining vital information about both the trends and trend-makers in these arenas. It gives you a detailed glimpse of how astronomy operates and allows you to network with potential collaborators, mentors, and proteges.
  7. Be active on social media: This isn’t exactly a membership perk in the traditional sense, but when you do volunteer your time to post about the society and its activities and outputs on social media, you are not only promoting the good works of the AAS, but you are also promoting yourself as a good citizen of the AAS community. Post only positive, helpful news on any social media channel — do not post anything that could be interpreted as negative, divisive, erroneous, or gossip. Learn the AAS social media handles (e.g., @AAS_Office on Twitter), hashtags (e.g., #AAS237 meeting), and guidelines, and acquire permission from anyone before posting photos of slides or posters.

There are many other membership benefits that you can explore, from discounts of rental cars and insurance to free access to Physics Today and a reduced subscription rate for Sky & Telescope. And of course, there’s always the potential to participate in AAS meetings and publish in AAS journals. Take a moment to examine the many ways that you can leverage your membership to serve both the field and the change-makers (like you!) of astronomy!

Note: Some of the text of this Tip Sheet has appeared in other works by the author, including her articles, columns, speeches, and book, Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015).

Alaina G. Levine is an award-winning entrepreneur, international keynote speaker, STEM career consultant, science writer, corporate comedian, and author of Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015), which beat out Einstein (really!) for the honor of being named one of the Top 5 Books of 2015 by Physics Today magazine. She is a regular speaker and consultant for AAS. @AlainaGLevine

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