Make The Most Of Trade And Professional Associations

Make The Most Of Trade And Professional Associations

By Mark Swartz

For just about every category of job, there’s an association or trade group. It might be the Order of Translators of Quebec. The Canadian Nurses Association. The Customer Service Institute of Canada. Or one of thousands such organizations across the country.

They provide a range of offerings for career development. There are networking events and conferences. Learning from experts in a given industry or profession. Certification in particular specialties. There are also perks such as discounts on work-related goods and services.

Some of the association offerings are free. Much more is available to those who have a membership.


What A Trade Association Does

Groups of this nature are usually not-for-profits. They cater to people in a specific occupation type, industry sector, or regulated profession.

What is their basic mission? To bring members together and give them a collective voice they might otherwise lack. Advocating for beneficial legislation is a central focus.

So is promoting the sharing of ideas and best practices. Organizations such as these may present trade shows and conferences, webinars, research papers, articles, news updates and special events. Some offer certifications that employers insist their applicants possess.


Start With Free Stuff

If finances are tight, access an association’s offerings that are rarely charged for:

  • blog posts by the association staff
  • news updates that feature key people, company happenings, and legislation changes
  • FAQ’s section that provides useful background (such as how many employers are in that industry, how many practitioners populate that occupational group)
  • E-magazines and newsletters
  • Survey results and position papers
  • Trade show entry for the exhibitors-section only (good for networking with suppliers)


The larger the association, the more of these goodies it tends to provide. Smaller groups are unlikely to fund frills.


Membership Has Its Perks

To make the most of a trade association, becoming a member is key. The door opens to an array of exclusive offerings.

There may be invitations to live networking events. Free webinars and white papers. An extensive online library of articles, case studies or the latest research.

A lot of the discussion forums are for members only. Blogs by industry insiders might be too. Then there are discounts on courses and services. Maybe reduced rates on insurance and other products as well.


Ways To Make Membership Inexpensive (Or Free)

Many of these associations offer discounted membership for students and recent grads. Same with entry fees to conventions and trade shows. Free attendance at networking events may be encouraged. Another route might be to volunteer at a trade show to be given free passage.

For people who are already working, ask the employer if they subsidize membership dues and conference fees. This could amount to partial coverage or payment/reimbursement of the full cost.


Where To Find Relevant Trade Associations

There are sources that list associations related to your field. The federal government hosts a Directory of Business and Trade Associations / Organizations. Reference libraries usually have a copy of a thorough publication called Associations Canada.

Search engines can also be consulted. Typing in the words “association Canada [name of industry, occupation or profession here]” might just do the trick.

Keep in mind that there could be various levels of an association. It might be a national, provincial or local branch. Some associations are virtual only. The majority have at least a few live events and meetings.


Tips For Leveraging Their Offerings

Being active in a trade association can be career enhancing. It does take a measure of commitment.

Attending events and developing face-to-face networking skills make a difference. Volunteering is another way to get known in these groups. It can be simple, such as helping to set up or cleaning up at a meeting. Further up the chain are assisting in organizing; submitting an article to their newsletter; speaking at an event to share expertise.

Posting ideas and thoughts about the profession on their forums is a way of contributing. It also enables getting to know other practitioners. They work at many different companies. How’s that for creating a bridge to future job prospects?