Where Associations Fit in the Career Development Pipeline

by | Nov 2, 2021 | Guest Post | 0 comments

What matters most to membership organizations? As the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Personify’s Wild Apricot and MemberClicks products, this is the question always on Kerry McCreadie’s mind. Their goal is to help nonprofits, associations, and clubs discover the solutions that solve their most frustrating pain points—while growing and retaining their member base. The CEO and Founder of their own nonprofit organization, Kerry is passionate about nonprofit and charitable work—especially in the arts. In this article, they explore the connection between associations and career development.

If you’re a membership director, you may have spent some time recently considering where your organization fits into the career development pathway of your specific industry. From leadership opportunities to continuing education courses, your association can play a significant role in helping members build their professional resumes.

Think of your organization’s current offerings. Are you doing enough to enhance members’ experiences with valuable career development opportunities?

In this post, we’ll explore where associations fall in the career development pipeline as well as the top professional development opportunities that your organization can offer its members. Let’s dive in!

The Role Associations Play in Career Development

Associations like yours support working professionals at all stages of their careers. Industry newcomers looking for their first jobs. Long-time members seeking educational opportunities. Your members cover it all! Meet members where they are by helping them meet their goals.

Career development opportunities offer benefits to both members and your organization as a whole. Members can receive valuable training opportunities and advance in their professional skills. Meanwhile, your association can boost its reputation as a leader in the industry for continuing education. You can also increase member retention by appealing to their professional needs and interests.

Career Development Opportunities to Offer Members

There are plenty of programs and services you can offer members to help them grow in their careers and achieve professional goals. Whether you’re looking to build your career development program from scratch or supplement your existing program with new initiatives, here are a few professional development opportunities to offer members:

Continuing Education Credits and Educational Events

Certificates or other continuing education credits let employees showcase their expertise. Marketing professionals can earn certificates like a Google Analytics certification to demonstrate their expertise in website analytics. Fields like psychology require a wide range of certifications to work with different populations, from school environments to forensics.

There are a few ways your association can help facilitate ongoing education for members within your industry, including:

Courses and Certifications

Use your organization’s expertise to offer online lessons and issue certificates to members. E-Learning courses are a growing trend because they allow members to learn at their own pace and from the comfort of their homes.

Use your association’s learning management system (LMS) to distribute course materials. Robust LMS platforms offer many features that help organizations manage their educational programs, such as:

  • A content library to store and distribute course materials.
  • Tools to issue and grade assessments.
  • Certification features to grant members their certificates upon successful completion.

Your LMS and other association management software can also help make your educational content more interactive, by offering your members discussion forums and live chat options. The more engaging the learning experience is, the more active your members will be!

Educational Events (Conferences and Workshops)

Conferences, seminars, or workshops can be a great way to bring experts from your field straight to your members!

When you invite thought leaders and other influential experts in your field to your organization’s events, you offer your members valuable opportunities to access the guidance and expert tips they need to advance their careers.

For instance, perhaps your organization is a print journalism association. You can invite influential journalists, editors, and photographers to discuss their work, sharing knowledge about what they’ve learned throughout their time in the industry. Your members can use what they’ve absorbed to enhance their own newspapers, as well as their personal portfolios.

Many associations are now offering virtual conferences that create safer environments during the pandemic, and let members engage from wherever they are. If you’re interested in this type of event, check out Pathable’s guide to planning virtual events to plan a valuable experience.

Leadership Experiences and Workshops

One of the most important aspects of career development is growing as a leader. No matter what industry you’re in, your members will need to develop leadership skills. These skills can help members attain positions in upper management, empower them to take on new responsibilities and major projects, or enable them to become better bosses of their own businesses.

Here are a few ideas for what your association can offer:

  • Bring in an outside consultant to help run a leadership development workshop.
  • Offer a leadership class using your learning management system.
  • Host a public speaking workshop.
  • Allow members to take on leadership roles, such as board member, committee chair, or volunteer coordinator.

Play a major role in helping members feel more confident while increasing the number of strong leaders in your industry. You’ve likely heard the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats.” This is true in the context of your association and its efforts to foster new industry leaders: a smarter, more confident workforce is a major benefit for your industry as a whole.

Membership Directories

A membership directory is a list of all of the members within your organization. Your membership directory may be private (only searchable by members of your organization) or public (searchable by anyone).

Public membership directories help members promote themselves and their businesses. People in the general public can use your directory as a resource to search for a service provider. For instance, if your organization is a plumbing association, individuals in your community can use your directory to find a nearby plumber when they have a leak or other issue.

MemberClicks’ guide to membership directories highlights these additional benefits of offering a membership directory:

  • Help members grow their businesses. Whether through customer searches or by forming partnerships and networking with other members, member directories help foster new connections and opportunities.
  • Legitimize your organization. It allows you to demonstrate how healthy your ranks are. This can entice prospective new members to take the leap and join.
  • Bolster your online engagement. A directory is a great resource for professionals in your field. By having it on your website, it will attract people to your site and boost your website traffic.

Make sure your directory lists basic information for each member, such as their name, job title, business address, photo, email address, and phone number. Promote your directory using your social media pages, email newsletters, and other industry publications.

Mentorship and Networking Opportunities

A mentorship program can give younger members or those who are newcomers to your industry the opportunity to make a professional connection and gain insider tips for career advancement.

Follow these steps to create a mentorship program for your organization:

  1. Identify potential mentors. Reach out to long-time members or those who hold leadership positions within their businesses. You can use the information in your membership directory to identify these individuals.
  2. Invite mentees to sign up. Post about your mentorship program on your social media pages and share the sign-up link using your email newsletter.
  3. Provide mentors and mentees with structure. Give your mentors tips and resources to guide their meetings with their mentees. For instance, you can provide ideas for icebreaker questions or activities that mentor pairs can work through, such as resume reviews or mock interviews.
  4. Create networking opportunities for mentors and mentees. Create a few opportunities for mentors and mentees to meet in person in a large group setting with other mentor pairs. This can help mentees feel more welcomed in your organization and your industry at large.

Valuable mentorship opportunities can help contribute to higher employee satisfaction within your industry because mentees will feel more comfortable in their roles and understand the best ways to grow in their career path.

Plus, members will be able to make stronger connections within your organization, increasing the chances that they’ll renew their membership. It’s much harder to consider leaving an organization that’s led to the formation of genuine friendships!


As a conglomeration of industry leaders, professionals, and experts, your association can play an essential role in your members’ career development pipeline with the valuable professional opportunities you offer. When members feel supported and welcomed in your organization and your industry, it can contribute to greater employee retention and satisfaction.

With these career development offerings in your toolbox, you’ll be able to offer members the professional benefits and support they’re looking for.

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