Career advancement – more money, more recognition or simply more options – is a driving goal for many of us. Yet, the Web and everyday conversation is full of frustrated people who can’t catch a break. Consider the following insights from recent articles and research studies.
Those rumors you hear of the highly educated person performing a job that does not draw on their capabilities is a daily reality.
Underemployment and Frustration: A Growing Trend For Many Professionals
- 23% of recent U.S. college graduates held part time jobs (35 hours per week or less) in 2011 compared to 14% in the 1990s (Source: Are Recent College Graduates Finding Good Jobs?, Federal Reserve Bank of New York)
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s research found that similar trends occurred in the last two recessions (early 1990s and early 2000s).
- “17 million Americans with college degrees are employed in jobs that do not require college-level skills.” (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported in Forbes, Educated and Underemployed)
Large numbers of young people with significant education are struggling to identify opportunities that match their capabilities.
- According to a 2012 Harvard Business Review, successful and rising stars in management are also dissatisfied with their career growth.
“Young high achievers—30 years old, on average, and with strong academic records, degrees from elite institutions, and international internship experience—are antsy. Three-quarters sent out résumés, contacted search firms, and interviewed for jobs at least once a year during their first employment stint. Nearly 95% regularly engaged in related activities such as updating résumés and seeking information on prospective employers. They left their companies, on average, after 28 months.” (Source: Why Top Young Managers Are in a Nonstop Job Hunt)
Whether you’re a recent college graduate or a more experienced professional, career advancement is becoming more challenging. Yet, there are still excellent opportunities to be had.
Opening The Door To Career Advancement: No Magic Bullet
There’s no single solution that unlocks the door to career advancement. Instead, you get ahead by experimenting with different strategies and measuring the results. Expecting a strategy to deliver results immediately – salary increases, job offers and more – is magical thinking.
In today’s article, you will discover one career advancement strategy that few people understand. Associations can dramatically advance your career prospects. Consider these eight practical benefits of leading associations
Associations: 8 Career Advancement Tips For You
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin
1. Get Ahead With Training and Education
If you’re a developer, accountant or lawyer, many if not all of your peers in your organization will have a similar body of knowledge. Given that reality, how can you distinguish yourself and get ahead?
Get training and education from associations. Here are four ways to access training from associations:
Attend a continuing education event. In the course of an evening or a day, you can discover great insights from others in your profession. In many cases, these events are relatively inexpensive. For the best results, come prepared to take notes and ask questions.
- Attend a webinar presentation.
You may have a full schedule that makes attending evening or weekend events difficult. Fortunately, many associations have responded to this reality by offering webinars – presentations you can attend from the comfort of your home or office. Webinars are typically one to two hours in length.
- Take an online course.
Some associations offer online courses to their members. If you have never taken an online course, it is worth trying to see if it meets your learning style.
- Earn a certification.
Certifications that combine study, exams and work experience tend to be the most valuable. For example, project managers with the Project Manager Professional earn $100,000 salaries. Before investing time and effort to earn a certification, investigate the certification’s requirements and credibility.
2. Build Your Network
I have written previously about the importance of building your internal network (i.e. having contacts and relationships across your current organization). However, what if you want to change industries? Or you may simply realize that your company no longer has opportunities.
You can build your network through associations. Use the following tips to get started.
- Introduce yourself to an association leader
- Introduce yourself to a guest speaker at an event
- Stay in touch with people you meet
3. Learn From Leaders (And Become A Leader!)
Carrying out a leadership role in a professional association demonstrates commitment to the profession. In many cases, association leaders have achieved great success in their careers. You may learn a technique to run better meetings, motivate team members or automate a boring task. Here are three tips to help you learn from leaders:
- Read Leader Profiles. Most associations publish short biographies or profiles describing their leader’s accomplishments and background. Much can be learned from carefully studying these profiles.
- Ask For Insights From Leaders.
As Scott H. Young pointed out, “most knowledge isn’t accessible in books or schools. Instead it’s held tacitly by people with experience.” One way to gain from that experience is to ask questions, preferably questions that show that you’ve done your homework (e.g. “Your profile said you worked at IBM and I’ve heard great things about the firm’s project management approach. What insights did you gain from working at projects at IBM?”)
- Volunteer For Leadership Roles
Many readers on the Internet believe that author Tim Ferriss was an overnight success with his 2007 book, The Four Hour Work Week. In fact, Ferriss laid the groundwork for his later success by volunteering for the Silicon Valley Association of Start-up Entrepreneurs (for more details on Ferriss’s early publishing success read: How to Get a Book Deal with World’s Largest Publisher).
4. Earn Awards Through Your Contributions
Earning awards is one of the best ways to demonstrate your commitment to excellence. For example, the University of Toronto gives awards to graduates to recognize graduates who have contributed to the University through volunteering (the Arbor Awards). Many professional and industry associations give individuals and organizations awards.
If you believe you have accomplished a great deal in your career or through volunteering, investigate what awards you might win. After all, being nominated for an award can enhance your career prospects even if you do not win.
5. Actively Participate In Conferences
Participating in professional conferences is a fantastic way to enhance your career. Some people are discouraged from attending conferences due to the expense. I understand that perspective. That’s why I’ve been saving money to attend the 2015 World Domination Summit for months. While travel is fun and eye-opening, you may be able to find conferences in your city as well.
Here are a few ideas to get the most out of your conference experience.
- Present at the conference. Giving a presentation at the conference enhances your credibility and you can sometimes gain other benefits (e.g. conference fee waived or networking event with other presenters)
- Write about your conference experience for a newsletter or website
- Read the conference program in detail before you attend and decide which sessions are most useful to you
- Attend conference social events.
6. Gain Media Attention
When a journalist or writer is looking for an expert to interview for an article, associations are a common resource. By joining an association, you are more likely to garner media attention especially if you are in a leadership role.
7. Develop Skills Through Your Association
Acquiring new skills is one of the best ways to develop your career prospects. When you work in an association, you have an excellent opportunity to grow your skills. You can learn how to organize events, how to run websites (e.g. WordPress and Microsoft Sharepoint are widely used platforms) and marketing.
For the best career results, start by asking yourself what skills you need to develop. No discussion of career advancement tips would be complete without a reference to goals!
8. Elevating Your Reference Group
Your “reference group” would determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life. – Brian Tracy
Professional associations attract people who are interested in their profession and making a greater contribution. If you are interested in associating with people who care about your industry and profession, an association is the place to go. This strategy is especially valuable if nobody in your immediate circle of friends and associates shares your career interests.
But Where Do I Find The Right Association To Join?
Finding the right association to join is easy. You can identify several possibilities in less than thirty minutes. Readers in large cities will tend to have the greatest variety of options to consider. While it is possible to gain benefits in almost any group, it is best to focus your attention on a group that is closely related to your industry or occupation.
- Search the Gateway To Associations (American Society of Association Executives).
- Browse the Directory of Canadian Not for Profit Associations.
- Browse the UK Professions Finder (includes approximately 300 associations).
- Consult Wikipedia’s List of International Professional Associations.
- Email two people in your network to ask for a recommendation.
- Look up your city’s chamber of commerce or business association.
- Contact your local university or college’s careers department to ask for suggestions (e.g. see the Career Development Resources at New York University).
- Do a Google web search for “your profession” + society, association or group (e.g. “programmer association”, “accountant society” or “attorney group”)
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Now it’s your turn:
In the comments, please share an example of how your involvement in associations have improved your career prospects.
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