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So much to learn: Tips for gaining association know-how

embracing elearning

“There is a first time for everything,” as the saying goes and my career in association management has yielded many examples of this. I have always enjoyed the wide variety of tasks and responsibilities involved in this work because there is always something new to learn. However, I’ll admit the prospect of facing anything new can make me a little anxious. Given that this was not a career I planned for while I was in school (my degrees are in political science and political management) virtually everything about association management has been a new experience at one point or another. This has meant a lot of learning on the job. Luckily over my 10+ years in this field I have been able to figure out some strategies that make taking on a new experience a little less intimidating.

Go back to school. Ok, maybe not literally but there have been many instances when I have sought out some extra educational resources to help me better understand something new. I have found this especially useful in cases where I am required to learn a new program or skill. For example, once, early in my career, I was asked to learn html coding to help design and maintain a basic website. Having no background in this kind of work I did a little research and found a great online course. It was comprised of six weekly sessions and some “homework” that I could complete based on my schedule. I walked away with a much better understanding and enough knowledge to get started. A more common occurrence is the need to learn new software or web programs. A habit I’ve gotten into is checking out the program’s online help/training component. These types of resources usually prove very beneficial as I’m initially learning how to navigate the program and later if more in depth assistance is required.

Ask someone. Working in association management means I have the privilege of working with some very amazing people! Over the years I have worked alongside attorneys, journalists, economists and graphic designers. Basically I’m surrounded by people with an amazing variety of backgrounds and skills. My colleagues are always eager to offer guidance or advice. It’s an incredible pool of knowledge! In addition to colleagues I find online forums to be helpful. Even if I’m not submitting a question myself, a quick search often yields answers to my exact inquiry.

Be confident. Learning anything, whether new skills or about a new project, can be daunting but it is possible! No matter the assignment I’m facing, I have confidence in my ability to learn new skills and to effectively apply these new skills to achieve a successful result. Taking time for some training, research or collaboration can go a long way toward making a new program or project more manageable and a successful outcome easier to achieve.

My career in association management has certainly been a series of “firsts” and these are just a few of my strategies for managing them. How about you? Any tips or tricks for handling the many new experiences and assignments we face as association management professionals?

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Make an effort to learn about your association's industry

learn about industryIn the course of my career I’ve worked with a variety of industry associations. I love the opportunity to learn about so many interesting and dynamic industries and anytime I begin work with a new association I try to learn as much as I can about the industry being represented. I’ve found that, not only is this an interesting learning opportunity on a personal level, but it actually makes my work with the association easier.

The first thing I did when I began working for AMPED was to attend an industry conference for one of our clients. It was an incredibly valuable experience and looking back I’m so glad I was able to take part. Not only was I able to meet many of the industry leaders I would be working with, but I gained first-hand knowledge of many of the issues important to the industry. Any opportunity to interact with the industry on a face-to-face basis is a worthwhile one!

Another great way to learn about an industry is to read. Working for an association I often find industry publications at my fingertips and I make it a point to at least skim them. This gives me a good idea of what’s going on and what is important to industry members at any given time. There are often great resources online as well. Familiarity with industry websites is incredibly helpful. Many of our associations host online discussion forums and it can be worthwhile to pay attention to questions and discussions that are posted.

So, how does all this education make the job of association management easier? In general, my experience has shown me that knowing something about the project I’m working on or the client I’m working with is a good thing. As an association management professional I am constantly aware that I am representing the industry I’m working with, so familiarity with that industry can only be beneficial. I’ve also found that members really do appreciate working with someone who is interested in their industry and the work they do.

Learning more about the industries I’m working with has always proved helpful on a number levels. It’s an activity that I find incredibly worthwhile and one that I will definitely continue in the future!

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