Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas for my upcoming book, 21 Things to Do After Getting Your Amateur Radio License. I am going to post chapters here as I write them. Here’s the first chapter. Please feel free to comment on this chapter.
Join a club
One of the very first things you should do after you get your first amateur radio license is to join a club. There are many reasons why this is a good idea, but perhaps the biggest reason is that amateur radio is more fun when shared with others. The whole point of amateur radio is to make contacts with other amateur radio operators. By joining a club, you start making face-to-face contacts.
All of the other reasons for joining a club stem from this idea of sharing the hobby with other amateur radio operators. For example, you can think of the other members of the club as a vast reservoir of knowledge that you can tap.
Want some advice on what radio to buy? Ask a club members. Need some help installing an antenna? Ask a club member. Have a question about the best place to buy feedline or connectors? Ask a club member. I think you get the idea.
Clubs conduct a variety of activities that you’ll find both interesting and useful. Many clubs, for example, have speakers at their monthly meetings that discuss some aspect of amateur radio. By attending these meetings, you’ll not only learn about the topic, but have someone that you can contact should you decide to pursue that topic further.
Clubs also hold classes and administer license examinations. Being a member of the club will make it easier for you to take advantage of the classes and help you upgrade your license more easily.
Another benefit that some clubs offer is the use of a club station. This station may allow use to use equipment or operate modes that would be impossible to do at your home station. Our club station, for example, has a three-element Yagi antenna up about 70 feet. There’s no way that I could install such an antenna system at my home. Using the club station, though, allows me to experience using this antenna system and learn all about how they work and how well they work.
Being a club member can even help you get a good deal on used equipment. Club members often offer their used gear to other club members at a lower price than they would ask if they listed them online or taking them to hamfests. Not only do you get a lower price, but it’s less likely that there will be a problem with your purchase, and if there is, you know exactly where to find the seller.
Finding a club
If you don’t know of any clubs in your area, go to http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club. Type your zip code into the appropriate box, and soon you’ll get a list of clubs in your area.
The listings will show what services the clubs offer, their specialties, and if the club has a website, the website address. This information should give you an idea of how active the club is and what kinds of things the club members are interested in.
If there are several clubs in your area, visit them all before deciding to join one. Just like people, clubs have their own personalities, and you may find that you fit better with one club rather than another. For example, some clubs emphasize emergency communications and public service. If you’re not really interested in those activities, that club may not be for you.
Whichever club you choose, go to the meetings and participate in their activities. One thing is certain. You won’t get anything out of a club, if you never show up.