By Margaret Bengtson, Account Coordinator

Life is full of transitions, those periods of time where we leave our comfort zone and are not quite yet settled into a “new normal.” I would know. I’m in the process of coming to grips with being a full-time empty-nester, now that my daughter has recently graduated college, nabbed a terrific job and rented her first apartment. While I am bursting with pride, I struggle with the fact I have closed a chapter in my life. I haven’t yet settled into that “new normal” yet. The other day I was reflecting on the support I have received from my community during this transitional period…only to come to the realization that the associations that I have worked for, both medical and legal, offer very similar support to their members during career transitions.

The First Transition: Student to Professional

For persons in the initial chapter of their career, perhaps in the midst of completing their formal education, most associations offer a student membership level. Associations can assist students in successfully launching their career by offering resources such as education, a Career Center and networking opportunities. These then help build the student member’s marketable skills prior to graduation and, usually, at a reduced cost.

As the member graduates from school or a residency program and begins a career-development phase, many associations offer mentoring or preceptorship programs. One example is the International Society of Appraisers, which pairs experienced personal property appraisers with those new to the field. The new appraiser receives useful insights and guidance from their mentor; they learn practical knowledge that is not taught in a classroom. In a similar vein, medical fellowships, such as the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery certified Fellowships, offer the physician hands-on training and guidance from an expert in the specialty. Besides gaining practical knowledge, the multi-generational relationships that emerge from these programs can last for years.

The Second Transition: From Start-up to Success

Growing a business to new levels requires taking new risks. Associations understand a successful business manager must be up-to-date on emerging industry trends and technology, be they mid-career or otherwise. The members are exposed to cutting-edge thinking through educational events, white papers and best practice publications, furthering their expertise; this education is often a pathway to credentialing. An association’s courses on marketing strategies, new technologies and services that link their members to potential clients help generate revenue opportunities. Conversely, member-only discounts on products and services reduce business expenses.

As a member settles into the later part of their career, associations recognize their accomplishments by identifying them as an industry expert, often by distinguishing them with a higher level of membership. The association identifies them as the voice of the industry and will seek their input in shaping industry policy and legislation. They might be asked to share their knowledge and experience at educational events, at mentorship programs, or as board members. They are treated as the ambassadors of their profession.

The Final Transition: Retirement Time!

As retirement nears, good associations also give guidance on how to transition out of practice and how to close or sell a business, as well as offering checklists of how to handle the staffing issues, legal matters, records retention and third-party negotiations. They may offer advertising to sell a practice. Emeritus or Honorary membership status is often granted to those that are not actively practicing but want to stay abreast of the industry they dedicated their career to, without the cost of dues.

Transitions aren’t always easy, but support from another party can always help to make it smoother. Community support, be it from a person or an association, helps with the emotional and practical challenges of a transition. With support, one does not need to feel ill-equipped to manage life’s transitions. They can embrace the change with a fresh perspective and the skills needed to successfully move forward into a new chapter.