Millennials get their share of depressing headlines these days—like this one from NBC News:
“Majority of millennials are in debt, hitting pause on major life events.”
A stunning sad fact: only 22 percent of millennials are debt-free. Student loan debt isn’t their only problem, credit card debt is a huge burden too.
The state of Gen Z and millennial membership
Every association wants to recruit Gen Z and millennial members, but the cost of membership may exceed their budget. According to the 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated (MGI), the median basic annual membership dues is $212. For a young person who’s not working or who’s living paycheck to paycheck, shelling out a few hundred bucks may not be feasible.
And that’s just the cost of joining. Young members also have to think about registration fees and travel expenses for events. If they’re working, they also have to request time off to attend those events. No wonder only 24 percent of student memberships convert to full memberships.
Although they’re the biggest generation in the workforce, millennials make up only 19 percent of association members, per MGI. Millennials are putting membership off—a big loss for them and for associations. Associations with a higher percentage of millennial members are more likely to have experienced increases in their one-year and five-year membership numbers.
Recruitment strategy: help millennials get jobs
Millennials need jobs. Some don’t have a job. Some have a temporary job. Some have an entry-level job. They either need a job now or will probably need a new one in the next few years.
If you help them find a job, your association becomes a life-changer. Now that’s a membership value proposition!
You don’t have to become an employment agency, although that’s an interesting idea to consider. Here are several ways your association can help millennials—prospects and members—find jobs and see what kind of value you offer.
Online career center
Create an online career center that features professional development programs and other career resources for young professionals. But don’t just build it and expect millennials to come. Use content marketing to attract your target audience. Develop, promote, and advertise lead magnets that bring millennials to your website.
Lead magnets are free content pieces that capture the attention and interest of your target audience, in this case, millennials. Website visitors provide their email address in exchange for a download of a tip sheet, checklist, report, or ebook. Consider topics such as:
- How to prepare for an interview
- Industry trends job-seekers must know
- How to prepare for a networking event
- Job skills most wanted by top industry employers
- Tips for cover letters
- Rookie resume mistakes
AARP uses content marketing to connect to a different generation. In a recent Associations Now article, they referred to their strategy as “priming the pump.” A targeted newsletter and streaming video series helps them build rapport with prospects. You could also try a webinar series, mini-courses, or an online learn-a-skill challenge.
If you don’t have the time to create content, take the Public Relations Society of America’s approach. They’ve built content partnerships with recruiters and PR agencies.
A job board will attract millennials—and revenue too thanks to the employers who post positions. Your career center can include:
- Resume reviews and templates
- Skills gap assessments—along with continuing education recommendations to fill in gaps
- Career webinars
- Virtual coaching sessions
Continuing education for millennials
Industry introduction. Use the career center to funnel millennials into your online learning programs. Offer mini-courses that introduce them to your industry or profession. Provide information about:
- Career paths
- Early-career jobs in your industry
- Types of employers in your industry
- Skills employers are seeking
Business basics. Many young professionals have been bitten by the freelance bug. They’re starting their careers by going out on their own as an entrepreneur or solo practicioner. Even if they have sufficient industry knowledge, most of them don’t have business chops. Include industry-relevant business management classes in your online programs.
Soft skills. The 2018 Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn says the top priority for talent development in 2018 is soft skills training. You’ll do employers and job-seekers a big favor by offering programs that help millennials develop their soft skills.
LinkedIn recommends “learning pathways, or groups of courses, that build upon each other so that at time of completion, employees have a well-roundedness about their soft skills abilities and have gained an appreciation for continuous learning.”
Learning pathways. A learning pathway is a designated route through online classes, courses, and other educational programs. It’s designed to help the learner achieve a goal, for example, prepare for a specific career. Millennials feel a steady sense of accomplishment when progressing through a learning pathway.
Digital badges. Upon the completion of a learning pathway, the learner receives a digital badge, certificate, and/or certification. The competition in the alternative credential market is heating up: 94 percent of educational institutions now offer credentials and digital badges. Researchers have found that millennial students favor badging and certificates over traditional degrees.
“Digital badge earners indicated that since all job applications are online, the badge sets them apart from other applicants. Employers like that they can click on the badge icon and verify an applicant’s skills. It’s a win-win for both,” said Charlene Templeton, assistant dean of continuing education at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland.
Pricing. Make sure Millennials can afford the cost of digital badges and other early-career education. Price these programs low enough for a ramen noodle budget or provide discounts to young members.
Scholarships. Millennials may have the desire for continuing education, but many can’t afford the cost of a traditional credential: courses, books, application/exam fee, and study groups.
Ask corporate members to fund scholarships for young professionals. Or, hold fund-raising events. The Association Executives of North Carolina holds a silent auction during its annual conference. The proceeds fund several types of scholarships, including scholarships for members who are pursuing their CAE or IOM credential.
Young professionals need help creating a professional network. But, as an Associations Now article points out, they would prefer “to make meaningful connections while doing meaningful work or having memorable experiences (or both).”
Help Millennials make friends and build their network during a memorable experience you host—an online learning program. Differentiate your education from competitors by making an online learning community an essential part of every course.
Millennials want to connect with peers but they would love the chance to meet influencers, potential mentors, and employers. Invite these guests to live online and in-person programs for Q&As or panel discussions.
Recruiting millennial members
Get your young members in front of their peers. Publicize testimonials of young members talking about how their association and its continuing education programs helped them advance in their career.
Offer a young professional membership level that includes access to a specific number of early career online learning programs. You could also include some career services in this package too. Or, give young members a discount code to use on education.
Don’t overlook young veterans. The Public Relations Society of America has a military transition program, Moving Veterans Forward Initiative, which provides complimentary membership to those who qualify as well as resume and career support.
Millennial member engagement
After a young professional joins, don’t let up. Put them into a new young member onboarding campaign that shows them how to get the most out of their membership. Continue to encourage them to take advantage of the early career education you offer. Make sure those programs have enough low-cost entry points so new members stay committed to their educational journey.
Invite young professionals to participate in a professional development advisory board. An employer advisory board can help you identify skills gaps, but you need the millennial perspective too. Young members can provide insight on content development and marketing direction.
By providing affordable learning and career resources, you’ll not only help millennials get a job, you’ll help them build a learning habit along with an association habit.