In the first of a new series of blog posts, Specialist Recruiter James Liddell explores what working in a professional membership body is all about.
When I tell people that I recruit for professional membership bodies, the first question I get is “What exactly is a professional membership body?”. It’s a difficult question to answer, as each of the 400 professional bodies in the UK does very different things. The Royal College of Physicians, for example, provides doctors with training and raises standards for clinical practice, while Universities UK influences research policy and promotes the value of the UK university sector, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development sets qualifications for Human Resources staff. How can I possibly try to explain what these organisations do, when what they do varies so much?
Although these organisations may seem very different, they do share two things in common. The first is that they act to represent their profession, whatever that may be. When they set qualifications and training, or offer advice and guidance, they are enabling their members to do their jobs properly. When they promote their profession to the media, government and the public, these organisations are showcasing the value of their members to the wider society. This brings us to the second thing professional membership bodies have in common; they exist to make the world a better place. Whether this is through safer roads and buildings, more highly-trained doctors, or better-supported marketers, all professional membership bodies act to enable their profession to contribute to the world. Many are registered as charities, committed to acting to the public good.
Some of the kinds of jobs you find at professional bodies are the same as you would find in the private and public sector. Like any organisation, they need Human Resources, IT, Finance, Marketing and Administrative staff. If you have experience of working in these types of roles in another sector then your skills will likely be highly transferable. Where they differ slightly from other types of organisations is that their focus is on their members, and not customers. Members differ from customers in that they belong to the organisation, and are not outside of it, so the approach to dealing with them is a little different. The Membership Department might contain roles like Membership Engagement Manager, Events Manager or Membership Coordinator. Similar roles are a little scarce in the private and public sector, but if you have strong customer service, marketing or administrative skills then you may be able to make the switch.
There are many benefits to working in this sector. Professional membership bodies are often prestigious organisations. Many of them have the Royal Charter and several of them are centuries old. This can give a real boost to your CV and benefit your prospects of career advancement, not least because many of them have a real emphasis on employee learning and training. This is naturally born out of their focus on their members’ continuous professional development. As values-led organisations aiming to uphold professional standards and make the world a better place, most employees see the value in what they do. You won’t just be working to make a profit for some invisible shareholders, but will be having a real impact on professionals and the world at large.
If you’d like to know more about what it’s like to work in a professional membership body, or if your skills could be useful, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our consultants will get in touch with you.