Q&A: Working in an Association – HR’s Perspective

When it comes to salary, benefits, and getting hired, people in Human Resources are a wealth of information. Recently, I contacted Joy Lynn Hyer, SPHR, to get her insights on these topics. Joy Lynn is Compensation/Survey Analyst for the Management Association, and has spent the majority of her career in HR.

Charlotte: From an employee benefits perspective, in what ways do you think associations exceed the offerings of other sectors?

Joy Lynn: The Management Association publishes a number of salary and benefits surveys each year, and as a compensation analyst I closely follow trends in these areas.  It’s not that benefits offered by associations “exceed” those in other sectors; rather, it’s that associations offer a healthy balance of work and personal life as well as opportunities for growth and development that other industries are not known for offering. 

From a total rewards perspective, depending on the association’s compensation philosophy they may lag the market in pay, but exceed the market when it comes to benefits.  I am not suggesting that associations as non-profit organizations do not offer competitive pay, but I am simply pointing out that many associations have a number of additional perks and benefits they are able to offer their employees.

In the Management Association’s 2012 Non-Profit Salary and Benefits Survey, nearly two-thirds of the survey participants offer flexible work schedules; 54% offer paid time off for part-time employees, more than three-quarters offer tuition reimbursement at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and one-half offer tuition reimbursement for professional license/certification fees.

Charlotte: When filling an open position, what makes you call in a candidate for an interview?

Joy Lynn: Depending on the level of the job, essential functions and required skills and education, I look at past accomplishments that are quantifiable, transferrable skills, education and experience as well as additional certifications, memberships, and professional involvement.

Charlotte: What advice would you offer to someone who wanted to make a transition from another sector to the Association industry?

Joy Lynn: This is a great question and so many times a friend in transition will come to me and say something like “I want to work in an association so I can make a difference every day.”   Since, Chicago is home to the second most associations in the US next to DC, this is a great place to make such a transition, and it doesn’t mean they have to change careers.

The first thing I would suggest is to research the types of jobs offered by professional associations, trade associations, and charitable organizations.  While associations offer some specialized careers, they also offer many of the same jobs you will find within any organization. 

Next, get connected and network with association professionals.  A great place to start is the Association Forum of Chicagoland; it is an Association for Associations.  While membership is limited to those who currently work for or with Chicago Associations, they also have a student membership and a career page where you can search open Association positions www.associationforum.org/Careers.  At least once a year, The Forum offers an annual Career Workshop and Job Fair for professionals and students.

Lastly, I would suggest finding an association or charitable organization with similar values or an interesting mission and see what kind of volunteer opportunities they have or if there is an opportunity to attend their next board meeting or member event.


About Charlotte Weeks - Executive Career Coach / Executive Resume Writer / Outplacement Consultant

Prior to founding Weeks Career Services, Inc. Charlotte Weeks worked in human resources at a national association, where she experienced the hiring process from the other side. She's also the past president of The National Resume Writers' Association (The NRWA). Charlotte specializes in providing C-level executives (CEO, CFO, CMO, etc.), association executives, executive directors and senior-level professionals (director, VP, SVP, etc.) with comprehensive career coaching services and high-ROI resumes. She is author of "I Want a Job in an Association -- Now What?? A Guide to Getting a Job in a Professional Association, Membership Organization, or Society" and featured author of "101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career." Additional book contributions include "The Twitter Job Search Guide," "Resumes That Pop!," and "Step-by-Step Cover Letters." As an internationally-recognized expert, Charlotte provides programs and documents tailored to each individual’s needs. To ensure that each person is given the highest quality of attention and service, Charlotte works with a limited number of new clients each month.
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