Internationally-trained business professionals: join an association!

By Wendy Terry

originally published October/November 2007

This is the third in a series of articles on professional associations which internationally trained professionals may join in order to establish a network with peers in Canada. The first article focused on engineering associations, and the last issue highlighted computer associations. This article is for business support staff; that is professionals who support the work of business, government agencies, community organizations etc. They are accountants, purchasing professionals, shipping and warehousing staff, human resource personnel, payroll staff, marketing people, business communicators, administrative assistants etc.. They do not sell or make the products or services, but they support the work of those who do known as “line staff.” Engineers are examples of line staff making and designing products. Line staff provide the administration support in the production of a product or the delivery of a service.

          The organizations which hire specialized support staff are usually mid to largein size. Smaller companies tend to have support staff who perform several of these functions. For all organizations very specialized support staff are usually hired on a contract basis such as lawyers or advertising firms. Smaller organizations hire general clerical staff who may take on a specialized function; for example, a receptionist who also does the accounting and data entry, or a bookkeeper who also does the purchasing.. At this level I could find no member associations. The associations for support staff exist at the more specialized professional level.

          As before, I found all the following associations in the Associations Canada Directory. Public libraries have a copy of Associations Canada. You can join the membership-based associations listed in this directory without being certified or having Canadian work experience. Your international credentials and work experience are enough.

          We urge internationally trained professionals to join these associations because it is the easiest way for them to find their professional peers. You can network with colleagues in your field and perhaps find job leads through attending events like annual conferences, monthly speakers’ events, dinners, and through their on line job banks. If an employer is looking for an accountant he or she is more likely to post a job on the Certified General Accountants web site than they are to put an ad in the paper or even contract with an employment agency. The job banks of these associations are part of that “hidden Canadian job market.” Similarly an employer looking for a purchasing agent or human resource officer etc. will go to the job bank for those associations.

          In these associations you can showcase your experience by writing articles for their newsletters, or giving an after dinner presentation at a monthly meeting. For example marketing professionals would be highly interested in how marketing works in China, Russia, or South America compared to Canada.

          You have the basis to start up many good conversations because your peers are interested in how things are done in your country, just as you are interested in how things are done here. Don’t worry about your English. Professionals in a common field find ways of communicating.

 

          The membership costs are minimal compared to the value in networking. One to two hundred dollars a year is the norm.

          There are several associations for accountants. The two that are more likely to have members who work as support staff are the Certified General Accountants Association and the Certified Management Accountants. Their web sites are www.cga-ontario.org and www.cma-canada.org.   firms. Its website is www.cica.ca The CGA and CMA have job banks but they are only open to members.

          Payroll has become a specialized area. In fact some firms specialize in providing a payroll service to other companies. The complexity of a payroll administration is a result of multiple staff benefit deductions such as dental care, life and or disability insurance, pension contributions etc. The Canadian Payroll Association is a membership-based association for payroll specialists. CPA’s website is www.payroll.ca CPA has a job bank for members.

          Human resource management is another key support staff area. These professionals are responsible not only for hiring and firing but often organize the training of staff, administration of benefits etc. Human Resource Professionals of Ontario. (HRPAO) is a membership-based organization for professionals working in this diverse field. There web site is www.hrpao.org It has a job bank for members.

          The Canadian Marketing Associations is a membership-based group for marketing firms but they have aa great Marketing Resources section on their website www.the-cma.org. There is also a membership based-organization called the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, MRIA. Its website is www.mria-arim.ca This a new organization which was formed 2004 from the merger of three other organizations. It has a job bank.

          The Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC) is a membership-based organization of over 40,000 members.   It has a job bank for members and a certification program. It is described as the leading professional association for supply chain management. PMAC’s web site is www.pma.ca. Another organization called Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Canada has a job bank for members. SCL’s website is www.sclcanada.org..

          Organizations put out a large quantity of communications in the form of company newsletters to staff and customers. So not surprisingly there is an International Association of Business Communicators, IABC. Its website is www.toronto.iabc.com

Despite the international title the largest chapters is in Toronto. It also has a job bank.

          The word “secretary” has all but been replaced by the words “administrative assistant|” and one of their main job functions, keeping records, has been totally taken over and transformed by the IT Department ( Information Technology) Nevertheless this support staff role is essential in supporting the front line production, sales and management staff of any organization. The Association of Administrative Assistants, found in 1950 and totally Canadian provides a designation of Qualified Administrative Assistant. Its website is www.aaa.ca The Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries CSCS, focuses on professionals who work in companies that are responsible to shareholders. Its website is www.cscs.org The International Association of Administrative Professionals IAAP is similar to the AAA. Its website is www.iaao-hq.org

 

          All these associations have local chapters and special interest groups. If you do not see your special area of expertise listed on the website, phone them up and ask where you find a network of people with similar specializations.

          All these associations will have committees which look after the management of the association such as Membership, Finance, Education, Annual Meeting, Magazine or Newsletter. By volunteering on these committees you further deepen your professional contacts.

          Participation in a professional association is one of the best ways of networking.

Toronto, Canada