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September 27, 2005

Membership Professionals in Demand?

At first I was a bit shocked when I read this post from Ken Doyle of SIGMA on ASAE's ExecSec mailing list:

We have been trying to fill a Director of Membership position for a couple of months. We have not been getting many qualified resumes. We have listed with the Washington Post and ASAE, and posted on the Executive and Membership list serves.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what we can do differently?
After thinking about it a little longer, I guess I'm not really that shocked after all. Sure, the job market is tight (especially in DC). That's not the fundamental problem, though.

I believe there's generally a lack of serious membership professionals out there. If someone's looking for a self-described membership professional, they're not likely to find one, in my opinion.

If there's one discipline that is unique to associations, it's membership. For virtually every other functional area in associations, there's an organization or credential driving that discipline: government relations, meeting planners, public relations, education, etc. Nothing for membership! Why?


Nick said...

I'm not on that listserv so I don't know what all of the context was. I would have to ask what does a "qualified resume" look like? I sure don't want to flame anyone in this small world of ours, but it strikes me that people aren't overly willing to hire for potential. I mean, the same skills that make you a good chapter relations person or program manager would lend themselves to a membership position. Of course, maybe this hiring manager is only seeing fresh-out-of-college types, in which case this doesn't apply. But I have observed that people are very reluctant to hire people who say, haven't yet supervised. When are they going to have that opportunity? If a potential employee is a motivated person, that person *will* be a supervisor by hook or by crook, so why not learn to read that potential and go win-win? Cheaper salary, give someone an opportunity to grow.

Ben said...

Nick, I agree with you on one level and disagree with you on another. I firmly believe in hiring for talent (or what you call potential). Myriad studies have shown that the most critical indicator of a professional's success is not the technical expertise, but the ability to create great relationships with customers and co-workers. You can teach membership, but you can't teach work ethic (not to adults, anyway). However, I don't think it's too much for an employer to ask for someone with BOTH the technical skills AND the talent/potential. It does take a lot of time to develop an expertise in membership and I can't fault an assn for looking for someone with expertise. The assn will have to pay top dollar for such a person, though.