How Associations Help Members Reach New Heights in Their Careers

Climbers helping each other ascend a mountain.

Associations can offer members many different benefits–from professional and personal support to providing access to industry events and resources–but career development sits at the heart of most memberships. 

It’s what most members look for and what most associations look to provide. How career development support is delivered and how effective these offerings are, however, can vary considerably between associations. 

Largely, the more effective your association is at helping to develop its members’ careers, the more value you can offer them. 

To give you an idea of different ways that your association can add to its membership, we’ve highlighted some of the best career development options available. By integrating these different components, your members will do better in their careers, find more value in professional development, and value their membership (and your association) more than ever before!

1. Offer Career Services Assistance

Many members look to their association to provide them with career development advice and expertise. By providing basic career assistance, such as offering resume building workshops, access to job boards, and interview tips, you can provide an invaluable service for your members. 

You don’t have to settle, however; try taking your association offerings beyond this to really provide members with resources they can’t get elsewhere!

Use your position as a knowledge center in the industry and offer your members insight on the job market. 

Answer questions like the following:

  • What type of credentials are required? 
  • What do employers seek from applicants? 

The more information you give members, the more they’ll be able to excel!

Next, you can consider offering your members varying levels of access to career services support. For example, you may offer heightened access to your job boards for a fee, giving paying members direct access to job openings or sending them job opportunities that might suit their qualifications. 

2. Chart a New Path 

When a new member joins, it’s important for the association to learn what makes them tick professionally. Uncover what ideal career development looks like to them by asking them where they see themselves in one year, five years, and ten years. With this information, you put your association in the optimal position to help them reach their goals!

One of the most effective ways to go about this is through continuing education

Via your LMS, lay out a continuing education roadmap customized to help every member reach their goals. When one requisite course is completed, for example, the next requirement opens up–giving members an easy-to-follow, actionable plan.

In addition to career advancement, your association can help facilitate entire career changes with continuing education. 

First, understand the different career pathways that are available to members in different stages of the industry, and consider what it would take for them to pursue each direction. Your association can then provide members with the training and skills necessary to switch professional directions. 

3. Incorporate Trends and New Developments

When providing career training and information for your members, you will want to focus on the core concepts of your industry, of course–but many members look for cutting-edge elements that could give them even more of a competitive advantage. 

To accomplish this, your association should integrate the latest in industry news and developments into its training content. Keep your content updated and current, and don’t be afraid to take risks when thinking about training types and formats!

Consider incorporating training courses that feature new technologies or help students gain new niche (but relevant!) skills that may help them in their careers. Contemporary professionals often seek out peer reviews and video-based training, so please your target audience by meeting their demands. Beyond giving members a boost, this can give them something that’s unique and unavailable elsewhere, in turn giving your association an advantage over the competition!

4. Create Relationships with Members 

While there is still a place for traditional networking opportunities, many contemporary members place great value on personal relationships with their association

Building a personal relationship with each member may seem like quite the challenge for larger organizations, but it can be accomplished by offering personalized communications, robust training, meaningful social media interactions, and greater access:

  • To personalize your communications, segment your members into groups, demographics, and career types; this allows you to send targeted emails and promotions to like-minded groups. 
  • To bolster training, try to offer smaller workshops or courses that enable learners to engage with their peers and their instructors. 
  • To engage more on social media, associations can post helpful resources and use polls to gather feedback.
  • To make your association more accessible to its audience, ensure that your association is available on a variety of channels (social media, website contact forms, forums, etc) and keep traditional lines of communication open as well. 

By taking advantage of all the tools the online space has to offer, your association will be able to foster better relationships with its members.

5. Provide Networking Opportunities

Networking is one of the key benefits of joining an association for many members. To improve the impact of these opportunities, try varying the types of networking you make available. 

Consider, for example, hosting different networking events throughout the year, like workshops and events. This can better connect members with like-minded professionals to give them the best chance of expanding their professional networks.

Associations can also give their members a more permanent networking opportunity by establishing an online community and/or forum. 

Many learning management systems (LMS) allow associations to set up an online social learning platform, which provides members with a place to connect, communicate, and learn from each other. Furthermore, with a digital badging system in place, members can show off their training and credentials and connect to (and with) other professionals and employers!

6. Establish a Mentoring Program

A strong mentorship program gives members a little bit of everything. It can help build networks, offer support, and provide motivation for members who are new or inexperienced in an industry. 

To get the most from the program, it’s important for the association to set a structure to it. Give it a timeline and follow up with each participant from time to time. Offer suggestions as to how mentors can help, and check in to see how each communication has gone.

Associations can get creative with their mentorships by offering different settings and experiences for the mentors and mentees to meet up. For example, you may want to have mentorship meet-ups at events or have the pairs attend a workshop together. You can also recommend that partners take a course or certification together, giving a little variety to the mentor-mentee relationship. 

By mixing up settings, associations can bring their mentorship pairs closer and allow participants to give and to get something new from each experience. 

You may also like: Keeping Members on Your Association’s Website


As an association, you have the opportunity to provide your members with a range of career development services, from career counseling to networking to mentoring opportunities and more–and, by integrating and customizing these services to the needs of your members, you’ll be able to help them reach greater heights than ever before. 

Your association has the ability to help members get where they want to go; with the right services and resources in place, you can ensure that you’re accomplishing exactly that!