We Asked, You Answered: What Career Advice Would You Give to Association Newbies?

Earlier this month, we asked readers what career advice they would offer to people who are new to the association industry. From building relationships to leaning into curiosity, people served up plenty of food for thought.

As we learned a few months back, people really do love working in associations.  In that same spirit, we recently asked readers what advice they would share with those who are new to the world of associations.

Their words of wisdom touched on everything from the importance of engagement, to being a team player, to asking questions and getting input. Here’s a look at some of the responses we received.

Hannah Andrews

Director, Digital Learning, Endocrine Society

Your customers aren’t individuals you may never see again; they are members who expect a consistent, quality experience across all facets of their engagement in the organization.

Christine DeJoy

Senior Editor, Helicopter Association International

You must be a team player to succeed in and feel fulfilled by association work, because in a member-focused organization, all departments will ultimately work together to achieve one central goal: protecting and advocating for your members’ interests. To excel at this objective, staff must not only work well together within their departments but also with their colleagues across the association.

Katharine Nesslage

Director of Membership and Conferences, Nonprofit Risk Management Center

Tap into your childhood self and pose questions all the time. Ask your coworkers, from across all departments, for their input as they see things from a different angle than you do. Inquire with vendors for what strategies other associations have implemented and ideas they think might be a good fit for your organization.

Stephen Legault, CAE

Director of Knowledge, Learning, and Assessment, American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians

Find something that interests you in the work your members do and use that as your doorway to a better understanding of the association as a whole. When I started in associations, I came in straight from frontline social service work as a social worker working with people in temporary housing. Supply- chain-focused association content was completely different, but I found the humanitarian side of supply chain work fascinating and ended up using that as my foothold to dig deeper into the work members were doing. Ultimately, that helped develop my overall interest in the association and how it functioned to support our members.

Jessica Keeler

Executive Director, Pennsylvania Optometric Association

I would advise someone new to associations to be flexible. Those who excel in association management can successfully deal with the constant change and many curve balls that are thrown at them. Your day rarely goes as planned. You may be asked to do something that is “not in your job description.” If you are open to change, have a positive attitude, and a team player, this is a career that is fulfilling and never boring!

Tim Hopkins, CAE

Practice Director, McKinley Advisors

There is an association for everything. And within many associations, you have the chance to wear multiple hats to gain invaluable experience throughout your career. I highly suggest approaching the industry with a curious mind, open heart, and desire to do good in the world. Eventually your experience, skills, and passion will align. It’s the beauty of a mission-based industry doing noble work.

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Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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