I have a bit of advice, especially for graduate students.
Years ago, my professors began suggesting memberships in professional organizations that aligned with my program and areas of research interest. Since the cost was significantly lower for students than the professionals, I thought, 'What the heck? I can at least tack it on to my resume.' What the professors didn't tell me was that active engagement in these organizations could be hugely beneficial to me throughout my education and on into my professional life. Kappa Delta Pi is an organization geared toward students, with a steady eye on maintaining relevance beyond school. I figured that would be my one organization, and I was good with that.
Today, I am preparing to enter a room filled with some of the greatest minds in instructional design for the express purpose of sharing my research ideas and having academic discussions with these same people! I've taken on a leadership role within the graduate community of this organization, and I've gotten so much out of the first full day of the conference, that I can't imagine why people WOULDN'T want to get involved as students. This is the first time I have stepped outside of my KDP comfort zone, and the rewards for taking that leap of faith are already mounting. I chose not to present at this conference. Instead, I wanted to just take in the experience as a participant.
So far, the experience has been amazing. Yesterday, we learned from leaders at Cirque du Soleil about how they have developed training for a highly diverse 'student' population from backgrounds of military, gymnastics, performance arts, and stage experience. Today, I start at breakfast with more than 30 ID professionals who have been shaping design theory for decades. Later, I will focus in on my dissertation, as many of the workshops this afternoon will revolve around my research area. At lunch, I will take over as president of the graduate assembly (long story, whole different blog). I never would have had these experiences without actively engaging in my organization.
For those of you new to KDP, get active. The rewards for active engagement are far greater than the line on your resume. If you are already active in KDP, get involved in professional organizations that align with your area(s) of interest. Be part of the discussion, not just a consumer.