As a verb, associate can mean to make a connection between things or concepts. You might associate the smell of lemons with summer memories of selling lemonade. Or, with polishing your furniture with Lemon Pledge.
As a noun, in employment, an associate is someone who is in a junior position. You might hear about associates at law firms, hoping to make partner one day. However, some companies also use associate to mean any employee, regardless of rank or seniority. The noun associate can also mean a friend or someone you keep company with. And, as a verb, associate can also mean to keep company with — like when you were associating with activists at the protest march.