Though I did not realize it at the time, ASAE Annual Conference 2011 in St. Louis was a turning point in my career. I went in literally knowing no one. One year later and life is very different. I am a CAE. I am an active volunteer. I have found friends and colleagues in the association world. And I can not wait for the conference in Dallas.
There have been some really great posts lately on how to get the most out of the ASAE Annual Conference – so I don’t really feel the need to repeat those key insights. Instead, I found that Annual Conference was a beginning to a number of paths that I did not realize I was going to walk this year – and that is what I would like to share:
1. Path to Learning – So I knew before I went to Annual last year that I wanted to get my CAE, and had been accepted to take the test. I had NO idea how to exactly get there. At conference I learned about review courses (I ended up taking the one with MSAE – never guessed I would be studying flashcards again!), study time lines, test taking strategies and met others also attempting the exam this past year. It was at annual that I ended up meeting my eventual study buddy, and sure enough – 9 months later we both passed.
2. Path to Sharing – ASAE ’11 was where I first learned about the process of session proposals for additional conferences throughout the year. With the encouragement of some new peers I submitted proposals that ended up with me in a Dr. Seuss hat at Great Ideas ’12. Yes, my whole office has seen that ignite. Yes, I am still referred to as ‘the rhyming association guy.’ And yes, it was SO much fun to do. Annual definitely provides a chance to learn about presentation tips, techniques and opportunities during the year.
3. Path to Volunteering – As association professionals, we know 6 words we can hear from members that can make a huge difference – “What can I do to help?” Turning that around, and asking that of the ASAE staff has let me meet some amazing people, have thought provoking conversations, and most of all be able to give back to the profession that is my chosen career path and livelihood. ASAE ’11 was where I first got the chance to start asking, and still do.
4. Path to Giving – Having seen how much my professional life has been enriched by ASAE, it only felt right to start giving back to the organization that is giving me so much. Over the past year I have become an ASAE Foundation donor, and though of course I would like to give more, I know that the contributions I have been able to make are going to great causes, research and initiatives. If we don’t invest in our own profession, how can we hope to see more opportunities for professional recognition and success?
5. Path to Community – Of everything I have gained, it is the colleagues – many of whom I am honored to call friends – that have made this past year amazing. At events and meetings, or over meals and drinks, I have been able to learn so much from each of them, meet so many more from their connections – and feel like I have a community where if I have a question, I can ask and not only receive a dozen answers, but two dozen offers to help. Starting these friendships at ASAE '11 truly was my biggest gain.
So I come back to ASAE Annual Conference this year from a different place. This time I come feeling already part of the community. I have times where I am going to be able to volunteer. I know both what formal learning opportunities I want to engage in, and how to keep my eyes open for those moments of insight that can pass you by. I get to walk the stage at an obscenely early hour to be recognized for my CAE. Having gotten so much, I signed up this year to be a mentor/buddy/new friend to a first time attendee. Though I am only going on my second year, I hope that I am able to share with them that, with an open mindset to learn, connect and get involved, ASAE Annual Conference can be a career and life changer.