Thursday, September 26, 2013

Should Younger Generations Join Industry Associations? Yes!

While speaking to a group of young professionals I was asked about the importance of joining industry associations.  

The person asking the question thought that membership organizations were dead and that the live (face-to-face) meetings industry was drying up.  He was convinced that the internet had brought live events to a trickle, and that only his grandmother could find value in joining a business / trade group.

The audience nodded along as he made his points, but some were surprised to hear my response and advice:

While it is true that there is much said about Generation Y not flocking to join old-school associations, I pointed out that many industry groups were changing with the times.  The best ones are changing their meeting agendas, adding generation specific sub-groups, allowing younger members to have a voice, and adding valuable online and mobile tools to their traditional offerings.  

While the recession did hurt the meetings industry, in 2013 it is currently booming. The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy Study (2011) reveals that the U.S. meetings industry directly supports 1.7 million jobs, $263 billion in spending, a $106 billion contribution to GDP, $60 billion in labor revenue, $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. Those numbers are growing, and the predictions are that there will be more face-to-face meeting in the future (not less).

The advice I shared with the audience was to be open minded about industry associations.  I pointed out that while a fast "like", "link", "share", or "follow" is one thing, sharing live experiences with other people is still how real relationships are built. 

People will always bring opportunities to those they know, like and trust.  Throughout time humans have congregated in community, and that is not going to change.  Being part of something will expose all involved to fresh ideas, interesting experiences, fun times, and more opportunities.

While fewer of their 20-something peers are currently joining trade groups, the path to leadership opportunities inside these organizations is not as competitive.  The time is now to get involved.

Their perception that that these groups were populated with "old" people is not necessarily a bad thing.  All the generations can (and should) actively learn from each other.... so the age of other members is irrelevant. If they can find a solid mentor with whom they can establish a long-term and mutually-beneficial relationship, then everyone wins.
My advice to the generations:
  • If you are in your 20's you need to make a friend every year who is over 50.  This will expose you to a variety of experiences and a different world view.
  • If you are over 50 you need to make a friend in their 20's every year.  This will keep you exposed to new technology and you can witness the opinions and actions of those from a different age group.
  • If you are in your 30's and 40's you have double the work.  Make a new friend over 50 and one under 30 each year.  This will bring you countless opportunities.
When we only spend time around those our own age (or our same gender, religion, political party, sexual orientation, etc...) we limit ourselves.  Knowing people who have differing backgrounds helps us grow and learn.
Since these membership associations are not going away (some will fail, but overall most will continue to serve their industries and change with the times), these younger professionals may eventually see the value in participation.  Seeing their peers discover key connections and advancement in careers will be all the encouragement required.  Those who join early will have an advantage, as it takes time to cultivate the benefits from being engaged in a community.

Over the last few years there has been much said about the "differences" in the three generations that are currently in the workforce.  But we are more alike than we are different. My 98-year-old father pointed out that people continue to fight the same battles throughout history.  He says that by reading the Bible you discover that for thousands of years man has struggled with money, careers, fame, sex, raising kids, natural disasters, jealousy, corruption, wars, sadness, etc....All the same issues that exist today. New technology is not going to change the human condition, thus people are still people (and not as different as we like to believe).

What do you think?  Will Gen Y join trade associations in greater numbers as they get older?  Is there still value to a career in being part of an industry group?  Do personal relationships matter in growing a career?  I think YES.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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