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when I grow up

When I meet someone for the first time and I’m asked what I do for a living, the exchange usually goes something like this.

Me: "I manage associations."
Them: [confused look]
Me: "Do YOU belong to any trade or professional associations?"
Them: [nine times out of 10 they do]
Me: "Well, someone has to make sure the conferences are well planned, promoted and executed; the newsletters are written and distributed; the membership database is managed; the website is up-to-date; dues renewals go out on time; financial records are kept; and that the board stays on its strategic path. — That’s what we do."
Them: [clearly impressed] "Wow! I’ve never heard of that. How does someone get into association management?"
Me: "Well . . ."

It’s an excellent question — with answers as varied as the associations we manage. From my experience, there really is no direct entry into this profession. I mean, no career counselor ever looked me up and down and said, “Hey! You’re organized. You’re a great communicator. You like working with people and improving products and processes. You’ve got what it takes to be a great association manager!” 

In school, when I was thinking about career goals, association management wasn’t even on my radar. I landed here out of chance. I wanted to be a journalist, so my advisor hooked me up with an internship at what was then the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association, managing their monthly magazine. That six-month internship turned into a full-year job. And that opened the door to my first “real” job out of college with Executive Director Inc., as a communications manager for the National Christmas Tree Association (proving once again that there really IS an association for everything!). Later I would go on to do communications and marketing work for the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin and now AMPED.

Everyone else I know in this profession has a similar story. They had no aspirations to go into association work. By happenstance and good fortune, they simply fell into it.

I'm thinking about this now because my teenage daughter is exploring job options as part of her career planning class. As she shows me the top ten results from her career exploration exercise, I'm betting that nowhere in any student’s results did association management show up as an option. Which is too bad, because there is a great need for new talent and strong leaders in associations. The next generation’s skills in communications, finance, technology and governance will help advocate for and advance the careers of millions of professionals and academics around the world.

“To work for an association is to choose a varied, challenging and rewarding career path that will give you a chance to grow professionally while helping make the world a better place,” says the American Society of Association Executives.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Who do you know who would make a great association manager?

For more information on association management careers, see:
Through the Maze: Careers in Association Management; American Society of Association Executives
FAQs: Careers in Association Management; Association Forum of Chicagoland
Career Headquarters; Wisconsin Society of Association Executives

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in Workplace Issues 1548 0
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new-job

Adjusting to a new job is tough. Whether you’re making a career change after just a few months, or many years, transitioning into a new role can be downright scary. Changing jobs means meeting and trying to fit in with all new people, it means a new routine, perhaps a new schedule, a new commute, and obviously, a new set of tasks and expectations. 

I recently started at AMPED after more than ten years with my former company. I went from being a wealth of knowledge and someone who others relied for all the answers, to being the one who knows almost nothing. My commute time more than doubled, which means my alarm clock now goes off an hour earlier. I sit at a desk the majority of the time now, when previously I had a good mix of sitting and being on my feet.

These are all things that have taken some getting used to and I’m certainly no expert in the career change department, but looking back I realize that there are a few things that have really helped my transition go a bit more smoothly. The following are a few suggestions for you if a career change is in your future.

Practice your routine. In the days or weeks leading up to your first day at the new job, take some time to test out your new wake up time, commute, parking, etc. Even if you’re not able to try the drive at the time of day you’ll actually be commuting, do explore all the possible routes. Feeling confident in my new commute definitely helped calm some of my first-day nerves. Nobody wants to make a bad impression by being late on the first day so if you can squelch even an iota of that nervousness by not being concerned about getting lost, you’re in good shape!

Ask questions. You will undoubtedly get bombarded with information in the first days and weeks at your new gig. It will be entirely too much information to take in at once, but by engaging and asking questions, you may just retain a little more of that information than you would by listening alone. Likewise, nobody expects you to get everything right on the first try. If you’re feeling uneasy about a task you’ve been assigned, ask for help! Your co-workers are your best resources.

Accept invitations. It can be intimidating asking questions of those aforementioned co-workers if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. One of the best ways to get to know the people you’ll now be spending more time with than some of your own family, is by accepting their invitations. Whether they invite you to happy hour, or for a quick coffee run, it’s important to accept the invitation. Getting to know your co-workers outside of work can help you feel more at ease when you need their help back in the office.

Immerse yourself. Everyone learns differently, but in my experience, the best way to really “get it” is to fully immerse yourself. I was so scared to answer the phone for the first time, but I took comfort in the fact that the hold button was my new best friend. Any question that came in could be answered by someone in the office. And by fielding those questions and finding the appropriate person to answer them, I was learning something by listening to the response. Take the opportunity to listen in on conference calls, request that your co-workers copy you in on email responses so you can later use them as reference. Even if the information isn’t immediately relevant, it’s likely that you’ll benefit from it at a later time.

Stay positive. This is probably the hardest of all. Even after four months, I get frustrated when I don’t know how to do something, don’t know how to answer a member’s question, or mess up something that should be really easy. But it’s important to remind yourself that nobody figures it all out right away. The President probably gets lost on his way to the bathroom in his first few months in the White House, right? The bottom line is that we learn from mistakes, and we all make them. Beating yourself up over it just isn’t worth it. If you can manage to stay positive, even despite all of the inevitable mistakes you’ll make, you’ll be so much better off in the long run.

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Tagged in: career new job
in Workplace Issues 1900 0
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Starting a new job is never easy. Learning new systems, names, job duties and everything else usually results in a state of utter confusion. Starting my new position as an assistant at AMPED was no exception. My first day was overwhelming; with five clients and being responsible for various tasks with each one, I was worried I would never be able to learn everything. However, with AMPED’s great staff and comfortable workplace, I felt at home right away.

Most of what I learned during my first few days initially seemed completely foreign to me. If you asked me to renew a membership, create a certification packet or even use the mail machine, you might as well have been speaking another language. I didn’t know how I was going to learn everything I needed to know promptly and well-enough to assist client needs.

Fortunately, I learned one very important lesson early on: I don’t need to know everything. The AMPED staff is more than willing to answer all my questions (and trust me, there are plenty) and teach me the skills I need to be successful in my position. I am no expert in half of the things I do, but I don’t have to be. Once I took the pressure off of myself to become all-knowing, I was able to relax and learn what I needed to know. Now things don’t seem so foreign at all. I am certainly still learning, but with a supportive team that is willing to teach me their ways, I am not as confused as I was at the start.

It’s clear that the AMPED team is committed to their work, but their respect for each other and positive attitudes make me look forward to coming into work every day.

AMPED’s workplace culture also made my transition easy. It’s clear that the AMPED team is committed to their work, but their respect for each other and positive attitudes make me look forward to coming into work every day. AMPED is casual when it can be and professional when it needs to be. The staff works hard and they go to great lengths to please their clients, but they genuinely enjoy working with each other daily. With a relatively small staff, they look forward to celebrating holidays, birthdays and other events around Madison together. Everyone was extremely welcoming from day one, which made my transition so much easier. I am fortunate to have found such excellent coworkers and always look forward to gathering with the staff.

In general, my transition into AMPED was great. While there were certainly many moments of confusion, I could not be happier to be a part of the team. I’ve now been in the office for about two months and although I am still learning, I am confident and comfortable in my environment. The things that felt so foreign to me during my first week are now tasks that I can complete quickly and easily. Being part of such a great company has been refreshing. I look forward to growing with AMPED, learning more about association management and seeing where the position takes me. It’s still true that starting a new job is not easy, but starting my position with AMPED was better than I could have imagined.

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Tagged in: AMPED team career
in Administration 1983 0
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