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How to Support Your Members’ Career Journey

Are you considering your members’ needs and expectations through each stage of their careers? Here are some strategies and techniques for supporting the needs of all your members – from students to retirees, and everyone in between.

As you think about your members’ relationships with your association, you likely think about the member journey – from the first interaction with your organization to the moment a member renews. You may also think about the member journey from the organization’s perspective: acquisition, onboarding, engagement, and renewal.

But, within that journey, are you also considering how your members’ needs and expectations change as they move through their careers? It’s important to look at the member journey throughout their entire relationship with your organization and also implement strategies and techniques to support their needs through each phase of their career – from student and early career to retirement.

That study begins with researching member expectations at each step of the way, including:

  • Knowing why members join: Young professionals may place higher value on career development, while experienced ones may look for ethical or industry-specific education.
  • Knowing when members join: Because members’ reasons for joining vary, it’s essential to identify what motivates them at different career points.
  • Knowing why members leave: Second only to knowing which member benefits are valuable to your users is knowing which don’t meet their needs and expectations.

By answering these questions and mapping them to different career points, you can segment your member audiences for more personalized interactions.

What Members Want.

To start, consider what members are seeking. Some factors that influence a new or renewing membership can include:

  • Communication preferences: Do you know what members want to hear from you, when, and how?
  • A vision: Have you clearly demonstrated what your organization does and can do? Have you shown members the potential rewards of belonging?
  • Relationships: Does your organization provide a good customer service experience or is there room for some improvement? Have you provided opportunities for members to engage with others and get involved?
  • Convenience: Are your association resources easy to access, or could you simplify some processes and tools?

As part of the Member Education and Career Development Report, Community Brands found a shift in why individuals join member-based organizations within their industry. In the past, members felt a sense of professional responsibility to join. Today, many seek a place where they can network with other individuals while growing and developing their careers in various ways. In fact, 51 percent of members surveyed say they joined their current organizations for benefits such as continuing education and networking.

Continuing Education

Ongoing knowledge acquisition is crucial to developing member skills. You can support this desire by:

  • Offering webinars and online learning resources: Ensure your members can access the tools they need to improve their skills and knowledge on demand for higher engagement. Interaction rates are often higher for associations that supply virtual learning opportunities.
  • Mapping education to career pathways: Help members align your education offerings with their goals and existing skills to identify learning opportunities. Career progression paths are essential to obtaining the right skills for advancement.
  • Providing certified education: Develop proprietary programs or obtain certifications allowing your association to teach courses and administer exams meeting education requirements. Your association can also offer for-credit courses that meet regulations necessary in certain industries, such as education.
  • Communicating industry-specific knowledge: Use your regular communications to inform members of timely, relevant topics. Your members count on you to let them know about industry trends, impactful legislation, tips, and best practices.


As many as 80% of job openings fill through networking, making who you know more essential than ever. When it comes to seeking career options, your members are looking to you to provide chances for them to network by:

  • Sponsoring monthly gatherings: Allow members to connect in a low-pressure way, like a monthly “mixer.”
  • Sponsoring volunteer opportunities: Ensure you provide meaningful ways for members to serve their communities, gain experience, and build valuable relationships in the process. For example, many members value chances to serve on committees to broaden their leadership skills.
  • Sponsoring a mentor program: Develop a strategy focusing on member value by promoting information exchange and meaningful partnerships. Draft mentors based on the interest level from prospective mentees.
  • Sponsoring an online community: Consider designing a resource-rich area for sharing knowledge and interacting with other members and industry professionals. This approach is especially helpful for new members as they navigate your organization’s benefits.

51 percent of members surveyed say they joined their current organizations for benefits such as continuing education and networking.

Providing Value in Each Stage of Your Members’ Careers.

So, while members typically join an association to develop and grow their careers, they get value from the organizations to which they belong in different ways along their career journey. As you think about your members, consider what they’re doing and what value your association can provide them in each phase of their careers.

For example:

Membership Journey Career Chart

Six Ways to Support Members Throughout the Career Journey.

Once you’ve thought through what members are looking for in each stage of their careers, you can begin to apply that knowledge to your member programs, services, and communications. Here are six ways to support members through various stages of the career journey:

1. Reach New Members Early in Their Careers.

The Member Engagement Study found that the best time to attract new members is early in their career stage (as a student or between one and five years into their career). As you develop content for attracting prospective members – such as tip sheets, industry news, reports, or information about legislative issues affecting the profession – consider weighing it more heavily toward the early career stage segment.

2. Consider Your Pricing Model.

Price can be a barrier to joining, especially for those early in their careers. Consider offering a budget-friendly monthly payment option.

3. Rethink Your Programs and Services.

Take a close look at your member offerings and programs to see how they map back to what your members want most in each stage of their careers. Ensure your offerings provide three key professional development benefits in some capacity: learning and continuing education, career growth, and networking. As you onboard new members, be sure to highlight networking opportunities, learning opportunities, career resources, and key content that can help throughout their career journey.

4. Ask for Feedback.

Don’t wait until a member fails to renew to find out what went wrong. As you plan various member programs, make changes to your website or do anything that will directly impact your members, get your members involved. Select a few members that may be most interested in the project at hand and ask them for feedback. Be sure to include members at various stages in their careers.

5. Remind Your Members How Your Organization Has Helped, Can Help, and Will Continue to Support Their Careers.

As you near renewal dates, remind your members of the benefits and value they receive from your organization. This is a great time to segment your list and send targeted messages that highlight specific benefits that help them advance their careers. For example:

Reinforce the value of membership by reminding members of the benefits they have taken advantage of so far, such as event discounts and learning opportunities.

Remind members of the benefits they have not yet taken advantage of, and that there’s still time to do so.

Let members know about the upcoming events and opportunities they’ll miss out on if they don’t renew.

6. Leverage Association-Specific Technology.

To support the member career journey, it’s critically important to have association-specific technology solutions in place. Make sure the technology you rely on for membership management, learning management, event management and career services is purpose-built and works well together. This approach will help your team operate efficiently and effectively, while providing the career support your members seek.

While members typically join an association to develop and grow their careers, they get value from the organizations to which they belong in different ways along their career journey.

Partner With Community Brands for an Integrated Member Support Journey

Our technology has been an industry game changer for over 20 years, increasing efficiency and improving member engagement for organizations in specialized markets. We currently serve over 100,000 clients across the globe, empowering them to achieve their goals through cloud-based solutions. Contact a YM Careers specialist online today for more information on how to achieve results with us.

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