Navigating Your Newly Inherited Online Career Center: A Guide to Effective Management

By Shanna Mertel • December 6, 2023

Congratulations on assuming responsibility for your organization’s online career center! Now that you comprehend the system’s functionality, its advantages to members, and how to promote it to users and employers, the next step is to oversee its operations effectively. 

Supervising an online career center entails a dual perspective: internally managing your association’s online career center program (I.e. budget, expectations) and externally overseeing the member experience. 

Managing the Internal Dynamics of Your Online Career Center 

Let us delve into the internal management of the program. Can you answer these crucial questions regarding your online career center program? 

  • Who are the stakeholders responsible for the career center in regard to marketing, social media, membership, finance, and decision-making? 
  • How is the career center integrated into your association’s overarching strategy and vision? 
  • In what capacity does the career center contribute to non-dues revenue in your operating budget? 
  • What is the procedure for initiating a marketing email? 
  • Who are your competitors for talent and job postings in your industry? 
  • What is the preferred sales approach for the career center? 
  • What reporting obligations exist, which key performance indicators are of utmost interest to senior staff, and who should receive these reports? 

Comprehending the role of the career center within your organization is pivotal for effectively managing expectations and ensuring success. Now that you possess the answers, let’s create a comprehensive management plan. 

Craft a mission statement and objective for your online career center. 

Ensure alignment with your association’s broader strategy and vision. If, for instance, member education is a focal point of your association’s mission, your online career center’s mission statement might state, “Our online career center will function as a central hub for top-notch professional development resources, facilitating members in obtaining certifications and advancing to the next stage of their professions.” Actively promote and market this mission statement to guarantee members recognize its purpose and value. 

Generate a spreadsheet. 

Establish a spreadsheet for monitoring progress in gross sales and net revenue relative to your goals, along with advancements toward your non-dues revenue target. Regularly update this on a monthly basis and incorporate graphs displaying year-over-year (YOY), year-to-date (YTD), and long-term performance trends. Identify the recipients of the report and ascertain the key data points essential to them. For instance: 

  • Achieve a XX% increase in gross sales within a one-year period compared to the previous year. 
  • Attain a XX% growth in registered members on the career center within a one-year period compared to the previous year. 
  • Secure a XX% rise in unique visitors within a one-year period compared to the previous year. 

Familiarize yourself with the individuals who can provide assistance if the career center lags behind its goals. 

Develop a marketing plan for each month over the next 12 months. 

Assign a specific subject or theme for a monthly promotion targeting either employers, job seekers, or both. Dedicate time to formulate messaging, distribution methods, and promotional elements in advance during the high-level planning phase. By doing so, you’ll be 80% prepared for your marketing endeavors, with execution becoming a straightforward task throughout the year. Pre-schedule these promotions with your marketing team to ensure they are already on the calendar for distribution. 

Perform a comprehensive analysis of your online career center’s competitors. 

Identify your competition. Are there other associations in your industry, local networking groups, or platforms like Assess what your competitors excel at. How much do they charge employers for job postings? Determine the distinctive value you can offer that sets you apart from these competitors. 

Develop a sales strategy. 

Establish a sales strategy outlining the pricing ranges for custom packages that align with your comfort level. For instance, consider a scenario where an employer wishes to acquire 41 job postings on the career center – determine the corresponding price. Simplify the process for yourself and others by having a predefined scale, for instance: 

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

Develop various sales packages. 

Identify and construct packages that allow the integration of career center offerings with other association services throughout the year. For instance, consider offering a package including 10 job postings along with event sponsorship. This approach enables cross-promotion and increased engagement from exhibitors, advertisers, and employers across multiple association programs through a single package sale. 

Consult with your senior leadership to understand the value they anticipate from the online career center. If their expectations are unclear or if the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) they suggest do not highlight the value you recognize the career center can offer, propose KPIs that will guide your team in decisions related to promotion, pricing, and placement of the online career center. Clearly articulate the significance of these KPIs, emphasizing their connection to enhancing membership value. 

Touch base with essential stakeholders. 

Establish regular check-ins for the career center program with internal key stakeholders. This is a vital step in maintaining ongoing support for career center initiatives. Assist stakeholders in acknowledging the association’s commitment to the industry and the careers of its members. Utilize the metrics you’ve been monitoring to illustrate the progress, efforts, and outcomes achieved. 

Navigating Members’ Expectations in the Online Career Center 

The crucial element for a successful career center? Satisfied customers. Effectively overseeing your members’ experience on the career center can be challenging. Here are some strategies to collect the information you require: 

Engage a select group of active members to test the functionality of your online career center.  

Gather their feedback and distinguish between areas of high value and potential concerns. Categorize concerns based on user experience and software enhancements to prioritize adjustments or updates. 

Inquire Within 

Seek input from your membership team about incorporating specific questions regarding the career center in the upcoming member survey. This not only provides valuable insights into member perceptions but also enhances brand awareness among those unaware of the career center’s existence. 

Conduct UX Research 

Recognize the significance of User Experience (UX) research in shaping the success of your career center. Invest time and effort in involving 6-8 members or association staff beyond your team to navigate through the online career center. Obtain their opinions on accessibility and ease of use. Members often articulate reasons for visiting or not visiting a website, providing valuable suggestions for improvement. Conducting UX research offers insights into enhancing the online career center’s user experience, ultimately boosting visitor numbers and sales. This research can be executed independently or with the guidance of a professional firm. 

Communicate Return on Investment (ROI) 

Regularly update traffic statistics to accurately reflect engagement levels on the career center. Tailor your messaging to highlight the number of certified or qualified industry job candidates among career center users or members. This fosters trust and underscores the value of employers’ investments in the career center. 

Harness Testimonials 

Leverage testimonials from employers who have experienced success with your association’s career center. This serves as a powerful tool to comprehend the aspects they value most and aids in creating additional marketing elements. Word-of-mouth remains a potent marketing strategy, so capitalize on your existing network of members to amplify positive feedback. 

A Dual-Pronged Approach to Online Career Center Management 

Effectively managing your association’s online career center demands a two-pronged strategy: internally supporting the platform through sales, marketing, and an overarching understanding of how the career center contributes to membership value, and externally managing the member experience. Regularly seek feedback on your online career center, implementing necessary changes to sustain its priority among members and employers. 

While managing an online career center may seem extensive, the implementation of a strategic plan, as outlined above, ensures focus on your mission, resulting in the enjoyment of the benefits of a well-executed, well-supported program. 

About The Author

Shanna Mertel is a director, change management at Naylor Association Solutions. Email her at [email protected].