What to Do When You Inherit a Career Center: How to Manage It

By Shanna Mertel • December 15, 2020

You have inherited an online career center. Congrats! Now that you understand how the system works, the member benefits of having an online career center, and how to market it to users and employers — now it is time to manage it effectively.

Managing an online career center should be viewed in two ways: internal management of your association’s online career center program and external management of the member experience.

Internal management of your online career center

Let’s start with the internal management of the program. Can you answer these essential questions about your online career center program?

  • Who are the stakeholders for the career center in marketing, social media, membership, finance and decision making?
  • How is the career center incorporated into your association’s overall strategy and vision?
  • How is the career center non-dues revenue part of your operating budget?
  • What is the process to have a marketing email sent out?
  • Who is your competition for talent and/or job postings in your industry?
  • What is the sales approach?
  • What type of reporting do you need to provide, what key performance indicators are senior staff most interested in seeing, and who do you need to send it to?

Understanding the role the career center plays within your organization will help you to manage expectations and success. So now that you have the answers, let’s build a management plan.

Write out a mission statement and goal for your online career center.

It should dovetail with your association’s overall strategy and vision. For example, if member education is a major part of your association’s purpose, your online career center mission statement could read, “Our online career center will serve as a hub for premier professional development resources that help our members become certified so they can reach the next level of their profession.” Promote and market your mission statement to ensure members are aware of its purpose and value.

Create a spreadsheet

Create a spreadsheet to track gross sales and net revenue progress to your goals plus progress toward your non-dues revenue goal. Update this on a monthly basis and create graphs that view YOY, YTD and long-term performance trends. Make sure you know who needs to get the report and which data points are most important to them. For example:

    • Increase gross sales by XX% in a one-year period compared to the previous year.
    • Increase the number of registered members on the career center by XX% in a one-year period compared to the previous year.
    • Increase unique visitors by XX% in a one-year period compared to the previous year.

Know who you can ask for help if you find the career center falling behind its goals.

Create a monthly marketing plan for the next 12 months.

Designate a subject or theme for one promotion per month to either employers, job seekers or both. Spend time coming up with the messaging, distribution method and promotion elements in advance now, while you’re planning at a high level. That way you are 80% of the way there for your marketing efforts and it is simply a matter of executing your ideas as the year goes on. Pre-schedule these promotions with your marketing team so your career center promotions are already on their calendar for distribution.

Conduct a competitive analysis for your online career center.

Who are your competitors? Other associations in your industry? Local networking groups? What do your competitors do well? How much do they charge employers to post jobs? What kind of unique value can you provide above and beyond those competitors?

Create a sales plan

Create a sales plan that contains the pricing ranges you are comfortable with for custom packages. For example, an employer wants to purchase 41 jobs on the career center – what would the price be? Make it easy on yourself and others, and have a scale in your back pocket such as:

  • 1-20 jobs is $100 per posting
  • 21-50 jobs is $90 per posting
  • 51-100 jobs is $75 per posting

Build different sales packages

Identify and build packages that can have career center offerings bundled with other association offerings throughout the year. For example, offer 10 job postings with an event sponsorship. You will be able to create cross promotion and more engagement from your exhibitors, advertisers and employers in multiple association programs with one package sale.

Ask your senior leadership what kind of value they expect to see from the online career center. If they don’t know, or if they come up with KPIs that don’t shine a light on the value YOU know the career center can provide, offer up the KPIs that will guide your team’s decisions about promotion, pricing, and placement of the online career center. Explain in detail why these KPIs matter. They should all relate back to increasing membership value in some way.

Check in with key stakeholders

Create a recurring career center program check-in with internal key stakeholders. This is one of the most crucial parts of gaining continuing support for career center efforts. Help them recognize the association’s investment in your industry and members’ careers. Use the metrics you’ve been tracking to show your progress, hard works and results.

How to Manage Members’ Online Career Center Expectations

The key to making a career center successful? Happy customers. Managing your members’ experience on the career center is a tough job. Here are some ideas you can use to gather the intel you need:

Ask a handful of engaged members to test drive your online career center.

Collect their feedback and identify areas of high value versus areas of concern. Organize the concerns by user experience versus software enhancements so you prioritize how to adjust or make updates.

Ask questions

Ask your membership team if you can add a question or two about the career center on your next member survey. This will give you good information on how your members perceive the career center. Plus, this will create brand awareness to those members who were not aware that you have a career center.

Conduct UX research

UX (user experience) research and design is just as important as sales in determining how successful your career center will be. It is well worth the time and effort to engage 6-8 members, or even association staff outside of your team, to walk through your online career center and tell you what they think of its accessibility and ease of use. Members often know why they do – or do not – visit a website, and what they would do to improve it. Conducting UX research can net you insights into how to make visiting and using your online career center it a more pleasant experience, which will increase visitors and sales. You could do this research on your own or hire a firm to guide you through the process.

Communicate Return on Investment (ROI)

Update traffic stats periodically to accurately portray the level of engagement on the career center. Target messaging with information about the number of career center users or members that are certified or qualified for industry jobs. This can encourage trust and value for the investment that the employer is making on the career center.


Obtaining and using testimonials from employers who have had success with your association career center is a great tool to help you understand the areas they most value and create additional marketing elements. Word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools available, so use your built-in network of members to spread the word!

A two-prong approach to online career center management

Managing your association’s online career center effectively requires a two-prong approach: Managing the internal support for the platform, including sales, marketing and the overall understanding of how an online career center contributes to membership value, and managing the member experience. This includes regularly requesting feedback about your online career center and making the necessary changes to keep usage of your online career center a priority among members and employers.

Managing an online career center can seem like a lot of work, but with a strategic plan like the one above in place, you will stay focused on your mission and enjoy the benefits of a well-executed, well-supported program.

About The Author

Shanna Mertel is a director of client experience for the SaaS group at Naylor Association Solutions. Email her at [email protected].