I got an email from Ted Pierce, association executive in the San Francisco Bay Area, who says:
I’m an association executive looking for work in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere. I find there aren’t enough jobs in the Bay Area serving my profession. There are very few people in my expanding Bay Area network who can help me find this kind of work. Most trade associations and professional societies are located in Sacramento or Washington, D.C. The people I network with in Sacramento are not very open or helpful. Washington, D.C. employers don’t seem to take me seriously because I live in Walnut Creek, CA — even though I’m willing to relocate with my family if given an offer.
What should I do?
Next week (March 5) at 9am Mountain Time we are jumping on an Ask the Expert webinar with Charlotte Weeks, who wrote I Want to Work in an Association – Now What??? Here is Charlotte’s response to Ted:
I’m a big supporter of anyone who wants to work in the association industry. Associations are known as great employers, lead the pack when it comes to benefits, and provide pay that is often comparable to corporations.
Plus, as associations focus on serving a group of individuals united by a common cause, (often a trade or industry) these nonprofits emphasize adding value to their members over the bottom line.
I have heard many association employees say that it’s the best of both worlds – an opportunity to make a difference, while still making a good living.
Now back to Ted’s dilemma. He’s right – getting a job in a different part of the country can be challenging. Even for locals, organizations usually prefer referrals. Still, there are ways to build your relationships with decision makers in the association industry, whether they are in your hometown or in another city.
First, remember to JOIN associations. Many association employees start to think of them solely as employers and forget that there are organizations that support them – associations for associations.
The main one is ASAE, which is headquartered in Washington D.C. As a member, you’ll have access to 21,000 association professionals located throughout the country.
In addition, almost every state has an individual association. Ted, for example, could join the California Society of Association Executives, where he can get to know association professionals in different parts of the state.
Second, Ted mentions that many of the people he has been networking with haven’t been very open or helpful. I have noticed that a lot of people WANT to help, but don’t feel they have anything to give. Of course, they probably realize you’re looking for work and if they don’t have a job lead – the conversation ends.
Fortunately, there’s a solution! You can still establish a connection with someone and gain valuable information by following the REAP acronym. This stands for Read, Events, Activities, and People. As an example, you can ask a new connection, “Are there any other association professionals in Sacramento that you recommend I speak with?” or “What industry events do you regularly attend?” This also takes the pressure off of your contact which in turn could lead them to feel more comfortable networking with you in the future.
Finally, be sure to provide value to your networking contacts. You can follow the REAP format in reverse (i.e. pass on interesting articles or let them know if any activities they may want to attend). The key is to do this consistently – while it won’t open overnight, taking the time to build high-quality relationships will lead to more connections and job leads!
There are thousands and thousands of associations. I went to an AESE conference once and was amazed at how many associations were represented.
In my job search I never thought of an association as a “target company,” but maybe you should?
Sign up to join us next week as Charlotte and I talk more about getting a job in associations.