Grow Your Association Career at 911

Grow Your Association Career at 911

By Kari Messenger, CMP, and Beth Zemach

Welcome to 911U! — Association Management Center (911) University. When you cross the threshold through the glass doors of 911 as an employee, you’ll dedicate time to helping 911’s clients grow and thrive, but you’ll also have numerous opportunities to grow your career as well. Association management companies, such as 911, provide a broad spectrum of expertise to clients and employees alike, just like a university with a mix of specialized departments. In addition to working within your major (i.e., your client or service team), you will also have an opportunity to learn from those in adjacent specialties at all levels. 911 even has a softball team if you want to go out for athletics!

Internal Growth Opportunities

Though you may be the only person on your team working on a certain specialty, (e.g., marketing or education), there may be dozens of individuals who share your specialty across client teams. 911 is a collaborative organization. Everyone who focuses on the same specialty is willing to share knowledge and best practices. All you need to do is find a few colleagues and you can begin to build your peer network. Not only will your peer network expose you to new ideas and new ways of expanding your skillset, you will also build an external professional network as these colleagues move about the professional world.

At 911, career-building opportunities are as close as our in-office special interest groups (SIGs). Focusing on everything from marketing and operations to tips for productivity, when you participate in a SIG meeting, you’ll walk away enriched with best practices, successful solutions from others who’ve experienced similar issues, and an opportunity to build leadership skills. SIGs are highly visible positions that are chaired by staff who, through their involvement and subject matter interest, have ascended into leadership positions. Once you’ve developed leadership skills as a SIG chair, you may be recommended for additional internal leadership positions on committees or even external positions.

External Growth Opportunities

Now that you’ve built your internal network, it’s time to let your 911 network lend support as you develop your public profile. To really grow in your career, you must venture outside to the larger association world. Taking advantage of every learning session that 911 has to offer is wise, but expanding beyond the walls of your own organization to soak up diversity of thought is wiser. Look to another reputable provider of association education and connections, such as . Take that first big step, grab an 911 buddy, and attend an outside event.

The easiest way to start is at an intimate learning event in sessions that interest you, where you can connect with someone who shares that same interest. If you can stretch yourself, head to a larger annual meeting. You are guaranteed to learn something new or make a new contact. The enthusiasm of those around you may motivate you to get involved. Become a committee volunteer, then committee lead, and eventually board member or officer. Ask your 911 colleagues to introduce you to appropriate connections inside organizations. 911 provides you with the support system you need to develop your potential.

Find your Champion Team

With association management companies, there is a large pool of talent to learn from right at your fingertips. Take some time to find those who have the same goals and mindset as you. Once you identify these people, take them out for coffee to get to know them and how they got to where they are in their own career. Once you start building that relationship, be sure to nurture it and ensure you are gathering feedback from that person on how you can keep improving and moving forward in your career.

As the girl group 3LW famously sang, “haters gonna hate.” Unfortunately, no matter where you are in life, there are always going to be people who are not interested in supporting you and your future. Look to what you can control and go from there. You can control who you let into your inner circle and be sure they have your best intentions in mind. This inner circle applies to both your personal life and your professional life, as each part of your life will affect the other. Ensure you are looking out for yourself and your champion team will be there to cheer you along the way.

Mentoring 101

Becoming a mentor can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your career. Helping mentees grow and find their own path can give them a sense of purpose, develop their leadership skills, and grow their career. Being part of an association management company provides many opportunities to become a mentor.

You might not think you are in the position to start mentoring, but surprise—you are! This doesn’t start once you hit manager level or your next promotion—it starts right now. The moment you move up in this world is the time to give back. First job out of college? Great! Now you can start mentoring a student and share all you have learned about finding a job and about your first few months in the working world. You have stories about how you got to where you are and what you wished you would have known beforehand. Now is the time to share those tips.

Have you been working for a year or two and someone new has started? Fantastic! Go introduce yourself, take that person to lunch, ask them what they like about the job and what questions are they not sure who to ask, guide them, and get to know them. These small gestures will make all the difference to a new employee, which, in return, will make your work environment a happier place to succeed for all.

Advanced Degree at 911

While association management companies offer a wide array of financial and operational benefits for associations, a whole set of career and learning benefits apply to the staff ensconced in them. The observation and intentional selection of tasks, leadership roles, and mentors paves the way for acquiring skills quickly and efficiently for future career advancement. Just like at a stand-alone association, at an association management company you still must be “deep,” meaning you know your client(s) well. But, in addition, you have the benefit of being “wide,” gaining knowledge across the spectrum of association management services, the luxury of which a standalone with tight role definitions may not afford you.

Are you looking to grow your association career with a job at 911? Check out our 911 Page to see where you can join our team.

Kari Messenger, CMP, is a senior meetings manager and Beth Zemach is a senior manager for 911 Consulting.

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