We receive many calls and questions from folks who are looking to break into the association marketplace for their career. I’ve got a few thoughts that might be helpful to you.
Building Out Your Network
First, you’ve must develop your association network. It’s is not a huge community, it’s unique, close-knit, and very open, but you will need to do the work to build the network.
Here’s what I’d recommend: There are many easily accessible networking opportunities in the association space. One is DCA Live. These are events where association execs get together. We often sponsor those programs. Association leaders show up to be recognized, and these events are low cost. Go to DCA Live, look at their programming, and pick a few networking events that seem like a good fit.
I also recommend you monitor what KiKi L’Italien does on Association Chat. She is developing some live events that people can participate in, and she does chats on Facebook Live and other platforms. You can see who’s engaging, who’s interested in what, and you get a rhythm for the dialogue in the association space. I would encourage you to check it out.
Thirdly, ASAE obviously has a number of association gatherings. One I would call to your attention, in particular, is they have a political action committee (PAC) and a PAC reception, which is attended often by some of the leading association execs in town. Consider this event to build your network.
And very importantly, folks, you must engage with LinkedIn and build out your professional connections on this platform. Begin to follow the content posted on LinkedIn, “like or share” it, and then connect with people.
LinkedIn is Key
I was talking to a young man the other day who wants to get a job with an association. He said, “Well, no. I’m not really active on LinkedIn.” Where do you go from there? You must have connections in the space – building out your LinkedIn profile, posting content of interest and connecting with association people on LinkedIn is an absolute minimum. Here’s what will happen: people with whom you are interviewing will look at your background. They’re going to see if you’re connected or not. If you have only 25 connections on LinkedIn, they’re going to move on.
Here are three sources to look for association jobs: one is asaenet.org – it’s free to register. You’ll get a handle on what’s happening in the national association job market. Another resource is associationjobs.org – another free resource to investigate – which features mid-level association positions and senior-level stuff. If you’re looking for high-level positions, I would absolutely encourage you to subscribe to CEO Update. Go to ceoupdate.org. They have news about the industry, and a pay-for subscription to access their high-profile and senior-level positions.
Once you’ve built out the resources, look for the positions that are a good fit for you – not necessarily what you want to get, but a good fit. Hey, I want to drive in the Indy 500, but I won’t be able to as much as I want to. Explore the opportunities. Then what? Go back to your LinkedIn network and find people who may be connected to an organization of interest and ask for an invitation – this move will be very helpful going forward.
A final thought: You may want to explore association recruiters as well (the people who are doing executive recruiting). How do you start? Go to their website, review the jobs they are currently searching for, and recommend someone from your network who might be qualified for those jobs. Not you – someone from your network. Then the recruiter begins to believe, “Gosh, this person is trying to help me. Maybe I can help her someday. Maybe I will consider her when I’m looking for a new position, and somebody recommends her to me.”
I sincerely hope you find these tips helpful as you pursue an association job.