If you’re new to the association world, it can feel overwhelming at first to connect with peers. One association exec who successfully made the transition two years ago shares her top tips.
Almost two years ago, I made the leap from practicing pharmacy in an ambulatory infusion center to serving student and new graduate members at a pharmacy membership association. I have heard ASAE leaders somewhat jokingly say that no one grows up wanting to be an association executive.
One of the best things I ever did was move 1,000 miles away from home to establish a new professional network.
As a student pharmacist, I was aware of pharmacist careers in the association space, but it wasn’t until I had been practicing as a pharmacist for a few years that I realized my strengths and professional interests align with the work of an association executive. Taking that leap felt like starting over again, as I had to create a new network and identify career milestones—like preparing for and attaining CAE designation—in this new industry. Here are some of my thoughts on how to build a professional network when you’re new to a role or the association industry.
Get involved. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have started building my association network when I transitioned from pharmacy practice if I didn’t get involved right away. I enjoy staying busy and meeting new people, so I jumped right in and sought out a one-year appointment on the ASAE Young Professionals Committee. Being a member of YPC has helped me create a new network of colleagues who are or have navigated the challenges of association management. It’s also an opportunity to give back to our profession and a channel to have our voices heard.
Map your future journey. When I first transitioned to association management, I was still deciding if I wanted to be a pharmacist or an association executive. There are only so many hours in a day so you need to decide if you want to be an expert in one area or a skilled artisan in many areas. During my one-year performance review, I decided that I wanted to focus on being the best association executive and utilize my pharmacist skills to care for our members. Now that I have charted this course, I can continue to map my professional development journey.
Go outside your comfort zone. Did you know that half of all Americans live 18 miles or less from their moms? It’s easy to stay close to comfort and familiarity, but how will we grow as individuals and professionals? One of the best things I ever did was move 1,000 miles away from home to establish a new professional network. It forced me to make new connections everywhere—from establishing a dentist, to finding a spiritual place of worship, to identifying coworkers that I wanted to spend Friday happy hours with.
Since then, the edges of my comfort zone continue to expand, so unfamiliarity and change are not as scary as they used to be. But you don’t need to move across the country to go outside your comfort zone. Consider checking an upcoming ASAE in-person event or send a Collaborate message to someone you’d like advice from.
Ask for help. I have always been one who learns from my mistakes—and I have no doubt I will continue to make them. For me, asking for help to prevent the critical mistakes or seeking understanding from colleagues has been extremely beneficial along the way. Similarly, there’s so much I am still learning as a young professional in the association industry. Not sure how to connect with an association leader in your specialty? Identify a mutual acquaintance—like a supervisor or volunteer committee—who can facilitate an introduction.
What advice do you have for young professionals who are new to the association industry or for association executives who are seeking new roles and responsibilities? Please share in the comments.