Distinctive branding. Eye-catching imagery. Stand-alone messaging. If there’s one thing that marketers are always harping on, it’s the idea of distinguishing yourself. It’s the only way to give yourself a leg up in this hyper-competitive world.
But truth be told, distinguishing your association doesn’t start with marketing. It starts with what you have to offer – in other words, your member benefits. If you can offer something that is truly valuable to your audience, you’ve already got the upper hand when it comes time to market yourself. All you have to do is tout those benefits in an engaging way!
So exactly what types of benefits should you be offering? This will vary depending on what kind of professional association you are and whom you serve. But a large portion of your members joined your association to advance their career, especially your newer Millennial members. Providing career services keeps members engaged, learning, and coming back. We’ve compiled the list of what we consider to be the most essential career services that your association should offer, so you can check yourself to see if you’re providing all the benefits your members hope for. Let’s dive in!
1. Networking opportunities
“It’s not what you know, but who you know!” We get it, it’s trite, it’s not entirely accurate (you do have to know SOME things to get ahead in the real world, after all), but like every cliché, it does contain some level of truth. Remember that guy in college who cued you in on a great internship opportunity? Or the woman you met at your last company meeting who had some great insight into your department’s issues?
Knowing the right people can open doors, provide unique perspective, or even help you add to your skill set. Surrounding yourself with the best and brightest of your industry is the quickest and most effective way to better yourself and your career. This is why networking opportunities are so crucial to every professional association. They are great ways for your members to connect, form friendships, and better each other and their industry. Every professional association offers networking opportunities of some sort. One of the main ways that associations accomplish this is through conferences.
Networking opportunities need to be varied and plentiful, so that all of your members can participate in some fashion. But you can’t just provide multiple opportunities. You must also ensure that networking presents itself in many different types of opportunities. Some members have difficulty making the conferences, but have a much easier time logging into a member chat forum daily. An online platform where members can go to meet, engage, and swap ideas provides a low-key and low-pressure way to network, and it allows people from across the nation connect easily.
2. Personal career course
Occasionally you’ll come across members who just feel “stuck” in their career path and are looking for a way to advance. This is your opportunity to come in and provide professional insight and counsel to help your members make the most of their careers. With your industry expertise, your association can be the instrument that helps members see how best to shore up their weaknesses and boost their career.
You can do this by designating members of your own team as career advisors, or even by implementing a “mentor” program, where seasoned members give aid and advice to new members. However you choose to tackle this challenge, career counsel will be a valuable asset to your members and keep them on the path to continued career advancement.
3. Industry education
Again, there’s something to be said for industry expertise, and your association should corner the market on it. Continuing education on your industry should be a huge focus of your professional association. This is a great benefit to your members, who by nature of their membership are generally seeking to learn more in order to better themselves and their career. Offer regular seminars and webinars, write e-books, and keep an updated blog to help your members learn more and really dig into their profession. But don’t forget that true thought leaders provide foresight rather than simply reporting bare facts.
You’ve been “in the biz,” so to speak, for some time, so you know a thing or two about the cycles and situations that affect your industry and the people within it. By offering predictions based on your experience, you give members an idea of what’s coming down the pike so they can plan and adapt accordingly. This kind of foresight is invaluable, and can only be offered by someone that is truly entrenched in the industry – and that’s you!
4. Resume services
Granted, there’s no way every association has the time or resources to hire resume writers for all their members. But you can still offer useful insight that can show members their resume’s weak spots and empower them to make their own corrections.
Have someone on your team who’s skilled in proofreading and who has experience with hiring look over member resumes and point out where they could be improved. Just having a second pair of critical eyes can make all the difference between a mediocre resume and one that really stands out. With your association’s background and professional knowledge, you have the ability to help your members craft their resumes into something memorable and eye-catching. Offer this benefit and watch careers thrive!
5. Career fairs
Many of your members join up with you for help in finding a new job or advancing within their industry. Thus, it’s in your best interest to provide benefits that help with this advancement. It makes you more valuable – which in turn promotes retention and future memberships. One way you can accomplish this is through regular career fairs. You already have an annual conference for networking and increasing industry knowledge, but this event could be specifically geared toward helping your members find new job opportunities.
Partner up with the heavy-hitters in your industry who are looking for new talent and host an event allowing members to meet these leaders in person. Again, it’s all about who you know – and you’re the perfect go-between to unite members with outstanding job opportunities. This type of event benefits all three players involved: your association, as you gain more member loyalty or even new members; the talent-seekers, who need to gain experienced workers; and your members, who are seeking viable job opportunities and need the in-person touch to make it happen. It’s a win, win, win scenario!
6. Job boards
Beyond an annual career fair, you can extend even more job opportunities to your members through the use of an online job board. A platform where you keep job postings exclusively for your members to browse is a giant leg-up for your association, as you show that you have access to career opportunities that your members won’t find anywhere else.
Host your job listings in an environment that makes it easier for your members. They can perform searches, set up job alerts, and even be matched to jobs that suit their specific experience and interests. Additionally, you’ll have more appeal to employers who wish to list jobs if you offer pre-screening for your candidates and other applicant management tools.
If you’re not sure where to begin with starting a job board for your members, Web Scribble offers intuitive software that can help you create and manage your own board, so you don’t have to put your job listings into the hands of a third party. This allows you to maximize your revenue and streamline expenses so you can focus on a better experience for members and employers alike.
Be known for your career benefits
Finding and retaining loyal members for life is all about providing value. If you distinguish yourself as an association dedicated to assisting with your members’ career advancement, you stand to boost your brand and your membership rates. Focus on providing these valuable services to your members to show that you’re invested in your members’ success.