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Young Professionals: The Future of Choosing a Career Path as an Association Executive

Young Professionals: The Future of Choosing a Career Path as an Association Executive

There are numerous and potent resources available to help young professionals (F10s) find their footing. When first choosing a career path, young professionals networks (YPNs) offer a place for this demographic to work together and learn from their contemporaries. Young professional programs (YPPs) similarly help F10s tweak and expand their existing skill sets to better suit their future.

But is that enough?

Most of these resources are focused on the entrepreneurial and corporate sectors rather than not-for-profits and associations. There are exceptions, such as young non-profit professionals networks (YNPNs), but they are much rarer and still suffer from the default mindset of most young professionals first choosing a career path. That is to say, most young professionals do not consider associations as a preferred or profitable career option.


The Divide Between Young Professionals and Association Executives

The "default mindset" I mentioned shouldn't surprise anyone working for an association. Most of us in the sector are aware that "not-for-profit" is seen largely by most others as the domain of volunteerism, low-pay, and charity. Typically, young professionals at the point of choosing a career path are seeking options with the highest potential growth and salary to get the best immediate return on the cost of their education. Given how this stands in opposition to the common misconception of what a career in the not-for-profit sector is like, it shouldn't surprise anyone that most associate executives are of a more ... experienced ... demographic.

This mindset is not new, of course. The off-target belief that "not-for-profit" and "charity" are always synonyms is a long-standing source of confusion that has made recruiting capable, young professionals into the sector difficult.

But will this perception change in the future?


What Tomorrow's Young Professionals Look for in a Job

A variety of recent studies (1) indicate that current (and thus, likely, future) young professionals value more than just money. When it comes to choosing a career path, these potential association executives of the next decade (and beyond) are looking beyond a pay cheque alone. Putting aside the misconception that there's no money to be made as an F10 association executive, the priority shift amongst this demographic bodes well for the sector.

According to this research, young professionals are increasingly more interested in job fulfillment than money. This is an ideal mentality for combating the misconception that there is no money to be found in the not-for-profit sector. Many associations have an advantage in this regard if their purpose is to benefit others because this same research also shows a relationship between doing something worthwhile in one's career and feeling fulfilled.

By enticing F10s with priorities other than salaries, associations should find it easier to appeal to new hires using other incentives. The chance to network, gain new skill sets, and affect important and meaningful change are all big draws.

Not having money as a primary driver also means associations have to seek ways of retaining valuable young professionals beyond throwing cash their way. This means improving on the non-monetary incentives used during the hiring process, but also providing valuable opportunities for advancement and mentoring.

Another good sign of what's to come for the not-for-profit sector during the next decade is that much of this same research indicates the current generation of F10s has a growing interest in community service and volunteerism. For civically-minded associations, this is a magical combination for recruiting the young professional cream of the crop.


How Recruiting Young Professionals into Associations Will Continue to Change

As trends will continue into the future, recent years have seen recruiting volunteers and hiring for association executives shift radically away from an informal process necessarily into one that is more like a job interview process. This is ideal for recruiting young professionals taking those first steps towards choosing a career path but aren't focused on money. A hiring process approach not only benefits the association by being more formal and less risky, but it also appeals to the F10's professional sensibilities even if they are volunteering.

Without a doubt, associations will have to continue to rethink how they seek out volunteers and young professionals over the decade to come. Similarly, choosing a career path in an association will require young professionals perceive the process in more formal, business-like terms. This can only bode well for helping prepare them for upward mobility in the sector or for later transition to the business sector.

It sounds like the next decade will shape up to be very interesting for not-for-profits and the young professionals working with them.



Associations 2025: Helping Young Professionals Better Understand Their Future

Although not limited to young professionals alone, CSAE's upcoming Associations 2025 event does have portions focusing on this demographic. For example, see this news post regarding submissions from young professionals to become TrendTalk presenters. As a whole, Associations 2025 looks at what may be in store for associations over the next decade from a number of perspectives. Can young professionals choosing a career path in the association sector afford not to attend?



Enhance Your Association Executive Career with the CAE Designation

Young professionals considering choosing a career path as an association executive should look to getting their CAE designation. The Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) offers the only Certified Association Executive (CAE®) program in Canada. Obtaining the CAE designation lets prospective employers in the not-for-profit sector know you are prepared for professional roles and challenges.




(1) Research References

iOpener Institute 2012 Study

Deloitte Millennial Survey

techopedia Infographic

Millennial Impact Report




F10s, Young Professionals, Non Profits, Associations, Association Professionals


Education, Events, CAE Program



0 ( 0 reviews)


  • Great article Steve. I think the not-for-profit sector is poised for some powerful growth in human capital. Millenials have been shown to want more meaning in their job. They want to accomplish something for the world. A not-for-profit has a much easier time of showing how the world benefits in some way from their work. The question the organization has to answer is, will it be fulfilling and engaging enough to the young professional? They think differently and we must teach and interact with them on a different level than those born before the 80's.
    1/25/2017 7:50:28 AM Reply

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