Every association has their own method of recruiting members. Some do this through marketing campaigns online or through television/radio. Others, whose members require a designation/certification, find that the best way to recruit members is by attending speaking events and career fairs at universities or colleges, or simply by good old-fashioned word of mouth.

Each year one of the associations I work with attends numerous career fairs across the country to promote the profession to university students. It is my job to work with the student marketing committee organize booths at these career fairs.

Choosing Which Career Fairs to Attend

University career fairs are usually held at the beginning of the school year in September/October and half way through the year around February/March. It is not possible to attend every career fair offered, so the first step is to decide where to allocate your resources. The association that I work with has a committee that selects the career fairs. They base their decision on several factors.

First, you must look at what courses are offered by the university and whether they meet the requirements for membership within the association. For example, one of the associations that I support recruits graduates of Kinesiology and other health-related fields for the certification program. Therefore, it would be pointless to attend a career fair at a school that does not offer these programs!

Another important factor to look at when selecting which career fair(s) to attend is whether there are any members in the area who would be available to volunteer their time to work at this fair. It is important to have a volunteer member representing your association who is very knowledgeable about the association, how to become a member, and what benefits are offered.

Finally, it is important to review the association’s budget for marketing and promotions. The budget will determine how many career fairs the committee will select to attend each year.

The Process

I have created a step-by-step process in the standard operating procedure (SOP) manual for the association I work with. For information on setting up a SOP you can read my blog The Importance of Association Policy and Procedure Manuals. Below is the process I follow when arranging attendance at a career fair:

  • Select which career fairs you would like to attend, as described above. I enter this information in an excel spreadsheet, so I can easily see which career fairs we will be attending.
  • Find volunteer(s) who are available and willing to work at the career fair. Before registering for the fair, you must make sure a volunteer has been confirmed; otherwise you may end up having to cancel the registration and lose the payment made.
  • Next, register for a booth. Each career fair will have a unique process for registering; this is likely done online.
  • Ship the booth materials to the scheduled volunteer prior to the career fair. These should be received no later than two days in advance. You don’t want to attend a career fair without any materials!

Booth Materials

The booth materials I ship out for career fairs are as follows:

Association booth or banner stand. Be sure to include the booth set up instructions, as it is important to show the volunteers how to set up the banner stand and booth properly. Below is a picture of the booth set up:

Association’s FAQs document. I also email the volunteer this document to have ahead of time to review.

Samples of products produced by members that show what the profession does. Include a variety of products that will peak the interest of students.

“Swag”. Having merchandise gifts with your association logo and/or name on it will attract more visitors to the booth. Who doesn’t love “swag”?!

Pamphlets and/or brochures with information on how to become a member. Make sure it includes the association’s contact information (phone, email and website).

Volunteer Follow-up

After the career fair has ended it is important to contact the volunteer(s) to get feedback on how the fair went, what worked, what changes they think should be made. All feedback is appreciated as we want to make the most out of this opportunity to grow the profession.

For professional associations, recruitment of members by attending career fairs is vital to the growth if the profession. However, since this can be a costly process in terms of time and resources, be sure to follow the above steps to get the most value for your association!