This started as a subgroup discussion on Linked In, but it is relevant to all of our IEEE forums …. so please add your thoughts as well … no doubt your experience is different than mine…
1) Innovation — sure IEEE is the #1 source of publications cited in US Patents… but that is not the key point … interaction with folks outside of your normal (r.e. work) work environment is a key source of inspiration … my few published papers have focused on the data here. … Being involved in IEEE events, conferences, sections, standards, committees, etc. provides cross-functional dialog — TYPICALLY OUTSIDE of the meetings (hallways, lunches, breaks…) that trigger critical inspiration. IEEE is the ONLY professional society with a wide range of engineering disciplines — which is where the real problems and solutions emerge.
2) Problem Solving — not all problems require patentable solutions, but experience with that type of problem is most useful … so “who you gonna call” … how about that insightful young/old feller/lady who you met at that IEEE <your event goes here> who seemed to know about these things. Trust me that call will provide more insight than a week on the web … why? because it is interactive — and oddly because you are showing the value you place in that other person which is at the core of social capital … which is the key to a variety of problem solving challenges … see “Bowling Alone” by Robert D. Putnam — social capital is the high value networking that can occur in many ways — perhaps even online.
3) Career advancement — sure, take the seminars, read the journals, check out the tutorials … did anyone every tell you it’s WHO YOU KNOW, not what you know? Well, they were right. If who you know values what you know then you could get a promotion, job offer, new career that way …. you know? 8/10 of my job changes were a direct result of the network I have though professional societies. I’m told by one HR VP that 75% of jobs are being filled by folks “in network”, not resumes, or job fairs. For most of my employers (industry) my IEEE roles were of significant value … but I was engaged making it that way (seeking out relevant roles where win-win-win — me, IEEE, employer– could benefit). The leadership, communications and team work skills you develop are directly transferable back into your career — and with less career-limiting-impact when you don’t get it quite right.
By the way — did you notice that to get these benefits you actually have to be engaged?
(The easy paths for getting involved include — volunteer to help with a conference, become active in your local chapter/section, help out with a group’s Blog or social media presence, join a standards committee relevant to your work, offer to help out with curriculum development or accreditation visits — most committees below the IEEE Board level have openings and opportunities.)
What is IEEE’s value proposition … Your Future — (and of course the future of the world made better via Technology) … but when you are listening to WII FM (what’s in it for me) remember … it is being active and engaged with your professional society (not just IEEE) that provides the aforementioned benefits.