Are you a current chamber professional in a chamber job you’re less than thrilled with?
Or maybe you’re in a different business altogether but think you could be really good as the type of connector who would succeed at a chamber of commerce?
- looking for a new chamber of commerce executive job,
- want to get promoted in your current chamber job,
- find a better fit for your skills in another chamber job,
- or break into a first-time chamber job, you won’t find much information about chamber jobs on the large job-hunting websites.
Instead, you need someone (like us!) who has been in the industry and has been right where you are. We’ll show you how to understand the intricacies of chamber work and what it takes to get noticed above the other chamber of commerce executives job candidates.
What Qualities Get You that Chamber Executive Job?
Before you begin your job search, it’s important to understand the hiring dynamics and what the chamber board is looking for in a leader for the chamber of commerce.
If you’re new to the chamber industry, you may not realize that you will be hired by a board and not an individual, although the chairperson may have a very strong say in the hiring decision.
Chamber boards hire a chamber president/CEO to handle the day-to-day operations of the chamber. That role oversees the staff and volunteers. The chamber executive must adhere to the chamber budget, help plan events, recruit members, and retain current members, among other things.
Some chambers also have specific needs that are based on their area and industries such as military relations, agri-business, or manufacturing.
A chamber president should be:
- Personable with strong business acumen
- Experienced in economic development and what it takes to create a strong community
- Willing and able to connect people and organizations within the community
- Interested and able to attend government meetings
- Tireless as it’s a very demanding chamber job … without a clock to punch
What Chamber Boards Like to See on Resumes: Chamber Leadership Job Requirements
While it’s not likely that smaller chamber boards are using keyword software to weed out unqualified candidates, there are several things you want to show on your resume to pique interest.
The chamber board is going to want to see real life examples of how you interact with people, succeed in business, increase sales, and work within a budget.
Go beyond simply listing you’ve done these things in your current job role and speak to the specifics of how you did them and what challenges you overcame to do so. If you don’t have room in your resume to talk about the things below, like being a self-starter, you can add this kind of information to your cover letter or inquiry email.
Add examples of the following in order to show serious intent in a chamber of commerce executive or leadership position:
- Previous experience in planning, organizing, strategizing and implementing an initiative and/or culture change
- Strong leadership and decision-making skills with the ability to perform a wide range of duties in a fast-paced environment
- Ability to consider and evaluate multiple opinions and ideas including those from volunteer committees
- Navigate the conflicts that can arise among passionate people without alienating members or critical stakeholders
- Business experience in managing people in an office environment, including budgeting and financial and data analysis
- Knowledge of the information technology and social media required for daily organizational operations
- Professional communication skills, including written and oral communications
- Ability to speak in front of groups of all sizes
- Being a self-starter and requiring minimal day-to-day supervision or help making critical decisions
- Experience in coordinating events of various sizes from board meetings to community events
Key Expectations for Chamber Executive Jobs
While each chamber is different, there are several expectations for the position.
- Serve as a brand champion for and are the face of the chamber
- Develop relationships with business owners, government officials, and leaders of civic organizations
- Work with the board on goal creation and the chamber’s strategic plan
- Help businesses of all sizes succeed regardless of the economy
How to Find Chamber Job Positions
Because chamber president / CEO is a niche position and chambers have limited budgets, chambers may not always advertise on the big job sites like Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn.
Instead, you’ll find that chambers prefer to advertise and do executive searches with groups that understand and are plugged into the chamber industry. If you’re looking for a chamber job, here are some places you will find positions listed:
- The US Chamber of Commerce
- State or regional chambers
- ACCE Job Board
- Glenn Shepard’s list of openings in the chamber world
- The Chamber Pros Facebook group (This is not an official chamber job source but one where chamber professionals often share openings–sometimes before they’re even listed. It’s also a good place to inquire about possibilities if you’re interested in a particular area of the country. As the name suggests, it’s a private group on Facebook for chamber pros.)
Another way to find positions is to search on keyword phrases that would be used in a press release for something monumental occurring at a chamber like a chamber leader stepping down/retiring or an executive search. These words might include “chamber replacement” or “chamber CEO stepping down.” Choose words that reflect the position you’re looking for. Set your search parameters to the past 30 days for the most current information.
Set up a Google alert to let you know as soon as something like this is posted. This keyword alert is a good way to find out about positions when the search is beginning. If a press release is written it may also include the board’s plans on filling the position as in whether they have an interim person in the position or they’re filling it internally.
Moving from Business Leadership to Chamber Leadership
If you’re currently in corporate America and considering the switch to working for the chamber, there are a couple of things you should know about how to make your business experience speak to the chamber board of directors.
You want to show examples of:
The chamber industry is a people industry. In order to make your business resume more appealing as a chamber leader, tailor it to show how you facilitate connections in your own professional life. In your cover letter, speak to this and how you have helped your business or others be more successful.
Working at a chamber is not a 9 to 5 job. You will be attending events after hours and before the traditional office day begins. Even when you’re not at work and circulating in the community, you will be recognized as the “chamber person” and be approached with questions and comments even when you’re grocery shopping.
Chamber boards are going to look for involvement in the community. If you don’t have chamber leadership experience, be sure to point out your volunteer activities and any leadership positions you held within them. Even PTA or volunteering for your child’s sports team can show some of the overlapping skills needed such as fundraising, building relationship with community leaders, and handling difficult interpersonal relationships.
Skills the Chamber Needs
They’re likely skills used to grow your business or make the business you work for more successful. If you became an expert in marketing or social media, for instance, those types of talents can serve a chamber as well. If your business had any sort of membership program or private group or course, showing success in recruiting for this program would be a directly translatable skill for a chamber leader.
Working in Chamber Jobs Is a Long-term Strategy
The chamber CEO position is not an instant gratification job. You won’t meet all your goals in the first week. A lot of what you’ll be doing with the community is long-term projects like economic development.
When you’re looking to become the leader of a chamber you need to think in the same long-term strategy you will use once you’re in the position. If you want to work in the chamber industry or you want to move up the ladder in your current chamber, you need to show your community dedication.
For newbies to the chamber, start by joining a chamber and volunteering for a committee. Eventually you may want to consider a board position.
If you’re already working for the chamber and you have your sights on the position of CEO, get involved in the planning and strategy as much as possible. Show that you can build relationships, make people feel good about themselves, that you’re good at recruiting members and marketing the chamber.
No matter what your current position with the chamber, recruitment and marketing are important at all levels. If you don’t demonstrate skills in these areas it will be hard to take you seriously when you share that you want to lead the chamber.
What is the Average Salary for Chamber President/CEOs?
The CEO salary is dependent on the size of the chamber, the area of the country, and experience of the candidate. If you’re imagining a chamber CEO making what a corporate CEO does, you’ll be largely overestimating the pay scale. Chamber leadership is a labor of love in many ways.
According to Salary.com the average chamber executive makes $75,788 in 2020. Payscale.com lists the average salary as $36,000.
The best place to find the most reliable salary average is in ACCE’s Salary Survey in Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking report. However, you need to be an ACCE member to access that information.
If you’re considering entering the chamber industry or switching roles, knowing what is expected of chamber leadership is important. Even if you’re not planning on entering the chamber world right now, there are things you can be doing now that will make your resume more appealing when the time comes.
By: Christina R. Metcalf