By Melanie Dolechek, KCSAE Board of Director
Whether you have a clear career path mapped out in your mind, or are waiting on the next opportunity to present itself, taking that next step up the ladder requires a dedicated effort to continuously develop your skills, knowledge, and network. There are several key strategies can help professionals accelerate their advancement. These proven approaches include mentorship, volunteerism, networking, and training and education.
Mentorship is a reliable approach to advancing in one’s career, particularly for those new in their field or place of employment. Mentorship goes beyond training and education by helping newcomers navigate through the sometimes confusing or complex situations they can face. While mentorship is often associated with those early in their career, professionals can substantially benefit from mentorship at any stage of their career, both as a mentee or mentor.
Mentors benefit by giving back to the field, enjoying the satisfaction and impact of sharing their knowledge and experience, expanding their networks, and learning new things from their mentees, to name a few. Mentees benefit from new perspectives on their work, further developing their networks, gaining a sounding board for ideas and projects, and increasing their sense of self-worth. It’s not unusual for someone to have multiple mentors during their career and even at the same time, for different purposes.
Getting involved by serving on a committee, task force or Board of Directors with an organization like KCSAE is a great way to expand your network, gain valuable leadership skills and increase your personal and organizational visibility within the industry. Volunteer work allows professionals to build skills they may not have the opportunity to develop in their current job. There are no shortage of leadership opportunities for those that want to develop their interpersonal, organizational, communication or project management experience. Not only do volunteers learn more about the association’s inner workings but they also gain knowledge and perspective from other committee members. Volunteering often leads to public recognition of your efforts and is a great way to make your mark if your current job doesn’t allow for much outward-facing interaction within the industry.
Networking is critical at all career stages. Both mentorship and volunteering are great ways to build your professional network. Networking is nothing more than the act of connecting with people. Connecting is much easier when you can meet people with common interests or a common purpose. It’s easy to find such people at industry events such as the KCSAE monthly educational programs, CEO roundtables, or the various SIGs. At an event, a great way to make a new connection is to introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you at lunch or before a session starts or by asking other attendees what they thought of the most recent speaker.
People in your network can be a great resource for advice and information about the latest challenges and new developments facing associations today. They can also help you to learn about other potential career paths within association management. And, since half of all jobs are never advertised, you’ll likely learn about opportunities that otherwise would go unnoticed.
Training and Education
It probably goes without saying that expanding your knowledge about association management is essential to advancing your career. However, many professionals view providing continuing education as the sole responsibility of their employer. And while organizations do have an incentive to fund professional development for their staff, those that get ahead in today’s job market take professional development into their own hands. Most of the time employer investments align with the company’s goals, not your specific performance improvement needs for skills and experience that you might need to explore other career opportunities within the industry. KCSAE offers a number of affordable training and educational opportunities such as webinars, SIGs, and monthly programs. Consider an investment in yourself (and your future earning potential!) to supplement training and development opportunities provided by your employer.
While many people may enter the association management field by chance, those that continue to climb the career ladder don’t rise to the top by accident. They’ve cultivated their careers through mentorship, continuing education, networking and volunteering. Consider employing these proven approaches to further advance your career, whatever your path may be.