Student Memberships: How Associations Can Fill Skills Gaps for Grads

I recently earned my undergraduate degree in history before coming to join the team at Digitec Interactive as a Writer and aspiring Instructional Designer. Interestingly, I’ve had several people comment on how strange it is that I’m working “in an unrelated field.” But the transition to eLearning seemed natural to me, almost as if I’d been studying it all along. In some ways, I was lucky.Milliennials at Associations

Many Millennials, like myself, don’t realize that there’s often a huge gap between the content they learn in college and the skills they need to succeed in the workforce after graduation.  The content (the concentration or major) is the aspect of a college education that Millennials seem to fixate on. It’s often the major factor that guides graduates’ job hunts and further education. The skills acquired along the way, the “how” someone got their degree, seem almost invisible by comparison. For example, the careful research, organization of ideas, detail-oriented revisions, and time management that produce a quality term paper can be applied to more than just the content of that assignment. These benefits are underrated. They can open a wider range of opportunities than the content of a degree can on its own.

Joining a trade association or professional society is one avenue for helping realize those opportunities. But my college’s Career Services department never mentioned them to me. I didn’t know anything about associations, let alone that many of them offer certifications in areas I’m interested in. Think about it as a recent graduate; a certification is a lower-cost way to enhance my resume and complement my existing education while providing the immediate knowledge needed in a specific field. There’s even a section for adding certifications to your profile on LinkedIn! If a senior or recent alumnus finds a topic that grabs their interest, and feels they have the hard skills to pursue a career in it, I would encourage them to join a related association and investigate certification programs, regardless of their college major.

Degrees seem to be a requirement in this day and age, but since so many people have them it can be hard for a recent graduate to stand out. Rather than spending weeks searching for another overly competitive internship, recent grads should join associations that can provide specialty training and help them network.

So, what can associations do to ensure college students and recent grads know they exist and that a membership in a trade association or professional society is a worthwhile next step for job seekers? Offer Student Memberships and make sure you market to Millennials! Shannon Nesser of  XYZ University echoes this idea in her blog post, Examples of Successful Student Association Chapters. Shannon explains that associations need to actively recruit generation Y members, before they settle for a job at Starbucks. Unfortunately, a lot of graduates simply don’t know that there are associations for their respective fields, let alone the unique value they can provide to someone entering the workforce. It’s your job to make sure Millenials know your association exists.

According to a 2013 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 52% of associations offer a Student Membership category. This means nearly half of associations are missing out on an opportunity to attract a budding member base, one that represents 30 million students annually. Convinced yet? Here’s a great article on how to develop student memberships at your association and, more importantly, how to keep them for the long haul.

Is your association part of the 52%? I’d love to hear how you market to potential Student Members and engage the ones you have.

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Jennifer Ritter

From storyboards to module building, Jennifer covers a lot of eLearning ground as an instructional designer, writer, and course creator. She earned her B.A. at Rollins College and draws on her past life as an occasional amateur film maker for insight on the zaniness of the production process. This Jen-of-many-trades is fascinated by the role of storytelling and gameplay in learning and engagement. This may or may not be connected to her urge to write novels and love of videogames and most things “nerdy.” A passion for learning that started in school and led to tutoring has happily landed her in the mystical realm of eLearning.

Spirit animal: Hawk
Diet-breaker: Ice cream
Comfort object: Throw blankets
Personal vice: Medieval-fantasy novels
Useless talent: Remembering useless facts
Unreasonable paranoia: Rollercoasters
Wishes more people cared about: Other people


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