The Importance of Getting Lots of Little Things Done Well Every Day

By Association Adviser staff • July 1, 2014

Christine Smith, Boxwood Technology
This month’s Corner Office spotlight shines on Christine Smith, president of Boxwood Technology, a leading provider of online career centers and career-related services to more than 1,100 associations.

  • Association career sites have a much higher trust factor than commercial job boards.
  • If you’ve helped a member find a job, when they get their dues renewal notice, it’s a no-brainer to stay with the association. Same thing for supplier members. If you help them find quality employees, they recognize the value of continued participation.

Association Adviser: Christine, our annual benchmarking research found that “career/professional development” ranked among the five most important topics to association professionals. Why do you think that is?

Christine Smith: People join associations to advance themselves professionally, so it naturally follows that the resources an association provides to enhance key skills or help someone find their next position are of high interest. When it comes to changing jobs, association members prefer to turn to the association they trust. Employers also recognize that niche sites are an efficient way to connect with top talent in specific industries, so a career center is a very natural fit for an association.

AA: What does a robust online career site bring to an association?

CS: Career centers increase website traffic, generate non-dues revenue and increase membership recruitment opportunities, among other things. Regarding membership, when a non-member visits your career site, it’s a perfect opportunity to reach out and ask: “Hey would you like to join?” If your association helps someone find a job, then joining the association or renewing their membership becomes a very easy decision. You’ve done something very tangible, positive and personal for that individual. The same thing works on the sponsorship side. Once employers recognize the value of your talent pool (i.e. your members) and start finding great employees through your career center, it’s so much easier to go back to them and ask for a sponsorship.

AA: How can an online career site help an association generate non-dues revenue?

CS: There are at least four ways right off the bat:

  • Employers pay to post jobs.
  • Employers pay for a “Featured Job” listing or other upgrades to their job listing that add incremental revenue.
  • Employers pay a sponsorship fee to be a “Featured Employer.”
  • Employers pay for their job to appear in association print publications, e-newsletters, etc.
Revenue can also be generated from other career-related programs, such as physical and virtual career fairs, in which employers pay to participate. Some organizations also use their career center to promote other relevant association fee-based products, such as salary surveys, continuing education, “enterprise level” memberships, etc.
AA: So, why don’t more associations put career centers front and center on their websites?
CS: Getting real estate on the home page or in the main navigation of an association’s website is often challenging because of inter-departmental competition for that space, as well as the sheer breadth of information, content and resources that associations provide. That said, the associations that generate the most revenue from their career centers are the ones that have made easy accessibility a priority.
AA: What are some of the best practices that ensure a high-performing career center?
CS: 1) You have to have a quality platform or else applicants won’t think highly of your organization; 2) Your site must have good navigation, both for job seekers and for the employers; and 3) You have to get the word out. Weave your online career center into the fabric of your association. Mention it in your new member welcome packets and in your newsletters. Start including more content to help members think in terms of career development and include context links in that content to your career center.
AA: How can an association career centers compete with the Monsters and Career Builders of the world?
CS: One of the cool things about association career sites is that they’re great for engaging the passive (i.e. latent) job seeker—someone who’s not actively looking to make a job change right now, but who might make a change for the right opportunity. Monster and Career Builder are for the active job seeker—if you don’t think of yourself as job hunting, you’ll never visit those sites.
Associations that distribute their career center’s jobs to other places on their website, their eNewsletter and/or their social media outlets are able to get the attention of the latent job seeker in ways that a commercial job board never can. Those individuals may end up applying for a job as a result, and if they don’t, they’ll still see the quality of jobs and employers on the association site. So, when they ARE ready to make a career move, they’ll start with the association’s career center. There’s a much higher trust factor on an association career site. It’s quality vs. quantity of listings.
AA: What are the biggest mistakes that associations make with their online career centers?
CS: Underestimating the complexity. They’re actually not that complicated to build, but they are complicated to maintain. You need to make constant improvements. You need to keep the posts up to date and take down out-of-date content, job listings and résumés. Other mistakes are not making the career center a prominent feature of the website and neglecting to leverage job listings as content. For example, some associations don’t want to tweet jobs or have them listed in an eNewsletter because they view job listings as advertising. Yes, companies pay a fee to list those jobs, but to the individuals on the receiving end of that newsletter or Twitter stream, those job listings are viewed as relevant industry information.
AA: What are the biggest mistakes that job candidates make when applying online?
Always include a cover letter with your résumé.
Christine Smith: Always include a cover letter with your resume.

CS: It’s astonishing how many applicants don’t include a cover letter with their résumé. That’s what really allows you to tell your story. Personally I get frustrated with all the buzzwords people use—”team player,” for instance. That doesn’t tell me who you really are. I also get frustrated when they use numbers without an explanation. For instance, they’ll include a bullet that says: “Raised revenue 200 percent.” But they don’t say how they did it. That’s why the cover letter is so important.

AA: Any tips for improving your online career presence (i.e. on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, other?)
CS: Association career centers should use all of those social platforms as distribution channels for their jobs and other career-related content. The approach to using each of these platforms varies, so the overall social media strategy for the organization needs to include the career center, just as it includes other association programs and information.
AA: Is the résumé with cover letter still essential for today’s job-seeker?
CS: Absolutely! Why put your credentials out there without telling your story?
AA: What are the biggest trends you’re seeing in online learning, career development and executive recruiting?
CS: Five years ago, they were saying online career centers were going to be replaced by social networking. LinkedIn is certainly going strong, but it hasn’t displaced the big players. If anything, it’s enhancing them. Associations are uniquely positioned [in the job arena] as they represent a unique, pre-qualified talent pool. Association career sites are really niche sites of some of the most talented and highly motivated people in your industry. If they weren’t motivated, they wouldn’t have spent the time and effort to join a professional association and get involved with it.
AA: Speaking of careers, how would you describe your leadership style?
CS: I focus on setting the strategic direction for the company and providing staff with the support and resources they need to be successful. Success usually doesn’t come from one single great “thing—it’s doing a lot of little things well every day.
AA: Tell us a little about your long-standing relationship with ASAE and how it has evolved?
CS: We’ve been involved with ASAE in many ways over the years. I have served on committees, as have other members of our staff; we also speak at ASAE events and contribute articles for their publications. In addition, we earned the ASAE business partner endorsement for our career center in 2002, and we have maintained our ASAE endorsement every year since. We are the only career center provider ever to achieve this. It means they’ve done their due diligence on us. When associations ask ASAE for help finding vendors, they know they can trust anyone who is an endorsed partner to have proven business ethics, financial stability.
Boxwood Technology logoAA: What’s keeping you up at night as Boxwood continues to grow and evolve at such a rapid pace?
CS: As we’ve grown—and now with the Naylor integration—my main concern has always been making sure that our customers always have a quality experience. The integration work with Naylor has been a really positive experience, and we’re all excited about the new opportunities for our clients that we’re creating.
AA: Can you tell us more about your alliance with Naylor?
CS: Naylor is just like Boxwood in that it is exclusively focused on serving associations. Like us, Naylor white labels its products and solutions to ensure that the association’s brand is always first. We’re both focused on adding member value via non-dues revenue. Naylor also moves fast and is entrepreneurial. So, it’s a great fit. It’s very nice when you have two very complementary cultures coming together to make each other stronger.