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Want to Impress Association Employers? Stand Out By Learning

Continued education, whether learning a new skill like excel or absorbing the basics of philosophy, is instrumental to success – especially in the association realm.

If you are browsing association jobs or want to get promoted, nowadays going above and beyond at your job description won’t quite cut it.

Employers looking to fill their association jobs want the best possible candidates; VP’s and managers want to reward best employee for a promotion.

So what does it take to stand out?

Employers Fill Association Jobs With Candidates Who Continue Their Education

Picture this: sitting in a classroom at 6pm at night on a wednesday after 3 long days of work.

Attempting to stay awake and take notes while your stomach grumbles and you start to daydream about relaxing at home.

That doesn’t sound appealing or make anyone want to continue their education.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Gone are the days where people need to sit in a physical classroom with a professor at a college/community college to take a mediocre marketing class.


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Education is widely available for association professionals in a number of different formats.

Here’s a list of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) you can take right now:


Edx is a website where you can take courses from the best universities in the world including Harvard, MIT, University of Chicago, Princeton and several more for no cost.

You don’t get a degree or certificate of completion but hey – there’s something to say about taking a class at Harvard in your spare time.


Coursera is one of my personal favorites because of the course design, course content and simplicity of the process.

This online education leader partners with top universities around the world to offer excellent learning opportunities. This is the website you want to go to if you’re looking to showcase your skills/completed courses. Once you complete a course on Coursera, you are awarded with a LinkedIn badge and certificate of course completion.

Courses range everywhere from digital marketing to beginners programming courses. There are several specialization certificates you can achieve by taking a series of online classes as well.


Udemy is a great place to learn targeted skills like how to master Excel, Word, Adobe, WordPress, etc. Classes typically range from 15-100 dollars, some are free.


There’s always the option of going for your CAE (Certified Association Executive). ASAE has a ton of great online course content that is relevant to the association profession.

The key to mastering a new subject is to make a plan – it’s important to be realistic about how much time you actually want to spend continuing your education.

Be honest with yourself.

It’s easy to say, “There are all these great courses, I’m going to take 5 classes a year!”

That’s a slippery slope. Often times these online courses can be overwhelming. Pick one topic, whether it’s marketing or data science, and decide which class to take that falls under your criteria.

A good rule of thumb is to start by making a goal to complete one new course or master one new subject each year.

Employers fill association jobs with candidates who are involved with more than just work

What do you do outside of your association job to develop your career?

Just as many parents and education advisors tell their high school kids and students extracurriculars matter on your college applications, what you do outside of work matters just as much for your association career.


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Start a blog to showcase your passion for association work and your writing skills.

Join your neighborhood association to show you care about your community.

Next, learn my doing.

Learn by Doing

Volunteer your time for a cause, whether for a non profit or a professional/trade association.

I am a huge advocate of volunteer work.

If you’re wondering why volunteer work is important for you association career, here’s an article explaining everything you need to know.

Volunteer opportunities are a great way to test out different leadership styles and business ideas.

Don’t want to risk trying some of your off-the-wall ideas at your current association?

Join a volunteer group and test them out. If your idea, like a new marketing strategy or management style takes off, try it out at your association.

Learn from Leaders in the Industry. Find a Mentor. published the blog:

15 Interviews with Association Executives Reveal These Marketing Trends.

How long would it have taken you to figure out these shifts in the association industry?

The point is this: A seasoned mentor will give you insight to the challenges and opportunities you face in your career today.

A great mentor will likely have gone through what you are going through right now. They can shed advice and give guidance on your association career.

It can tough to find a great mentor, but instrumentally important to your career

Here are qualities you should look for in an association mentor:

  • You want to be in their position at some point in your career
  • They are willing to dedicate at least a few hours a month
  • They are geographically near you so you can meet for coffee every now and again


Start Learning Right Now

It’s easy to want to take a course, volunteer or find a mentor.

Following through is the tricky part.

Choose one item to start. Take that Social Media Marketing class you’ve been meaning to take. Grab coffee with an association executive you want to learn more about.

Make the leap and put your association career on the fast track. Start learning.

Right Now.


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