More Advice for Aspiring Professionals

Following is advice from 11 association professionals on how being promotable. For more on being a promotable professional, read "How to Become a Promotable Professional" by Jeffrey Cufaude in the May 2010 issue of Associations Now.

What advice would you offer to a staff person looking to advance in an organization?

"Few of us have the luxury of the adage to 'find something you love to do, and that you would do without pay.' However, we can indeed understand the types of things we like to do, such as evaluate data, work with the media, develop technical projects, put on shows, etc. Those things will be different for different people, and can lead to fulfilling positions and careers. So it is important that an individual is able to characterize those things, as opposed to identifying a positional title to which they might aspire."

Ladd W. Smith, CAE, Ph.D., president, Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, Inc.

"I think the most important piece of advice I would offer is an expansion of the old dress-for-success motto: 'Think and behave for the job you want, not the job you have.' In other words, for someone who wants to advance to greater responsibility within an association, think and act like an ideal person for the position you aspire to. Professionals who can demonstrate that they understand the role of the association in relation to its customers and can suggest strategies for how the association can better meet those needs are demonstrating that they have the strategic ability to progress within the organization. Demonstrating those skills on a daily basis will encourage management to naturally think of you when opportunities for advancement become available."

Lola Pugliese, CAE, MS, vice president, finance and member services, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute

Online Extras: Advice for Aspiring Professionals

For more on being a promotable professional, read "How to Become a Promotable Professional" by Jeffrey Cufuade in the May 2010 issue of Associations Now.

Watch Now

Should you stay or should you go? Just because you think it's time for you to leave your current job doesn't necessarily mean you should. Watch Jeffrey Cufaude explain the reasons you might want to stay.

"Be a learner. Learn as much as you can about your own area of responsibility. Ask questions of your supervisor. Volunteer to participate on cross functional teams. Definitely show interest in the budget process and the financial management aspects of your position. Learn about the bigger picture. If your organization will support professional development, take advantage of that. If they don't pay your way, look at what you can afford to do on your own—professional society membership, subscription to Harvard Business Review, library card, and regular reading room time with business journals."

Donna Dunn, CAE, executive director, Association of YMCA Professionals

"Get engaged, think, be disciplined in your execution, and learn to find fulfillment in continual reinvention."

Joel D. Albizo, CAE, executive director, Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards

"Learn to answer the question or complete the task or develop a plan of action with the requester's use in mind. Simply asking 'How will this information be utilized for our members or our member's customers?' can go a long way to getting the right information right."

David Lorms, CAE, principal, Core Concept Solutions, LLC

"Bring a positive attitude every day to the workplace. Listen. Assume as much responsibility as practical. Search out learning opportunities. Do not expect any immediate additional compensation. Respect others' opinions/perspectives even if you do not agree with them."

Brian G. Trent, CFO, Los Angeles City Employees Association

"Learn about everything that goes on within your association, not just projects within your purview. Demonstrate to your supervisors that you are keeping up on the industry and applying this knowledge to your position. Have a positive attitude, work well as a teammate, keep your emotions in check, and bring solutions to your supervisors, not just problems."

Stacy H. Brungardt, CAE, executive director, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine

"If you want more responsibility, take more responsibility. Seek out areas where you can take on extra work, develop new ideas that add value for members, and show that you can operate at a higher level. Solve problems for your boss and the exec."

Robert A. Hall, MEd, CAE, executive director, American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons

"My one piece of advice to those wanting to advance: Watch and learn from those around you, both inside and outside the organization, who model the kind of success and professionalism you aspire to."

Joan C. Weiss, executive director, Justice Research and Statistics Association

"Don't wait for us! Be creative and approach us with ideas that you think might improve current processes or utilize your skills better. This is the kind of proactive thinking that will get you noticed—and then you'll be the first person I think of when I need someone to move up the ladder two months from now."

Elizabeth Langston, CAE, director of exam development, NCBTMB

"The one piece of advice I would give is break out of your 9-to-5 mentality. Business does not stop simply because you leave the office or have not arrived yet, especially if you are an association with a global membership. Doing a fabulous job, having the soft skills needed for managing up and down the organizational chart, and viewing what you do as broader piece of the association's puzzle helps management consider you promotable."

Kim Howard, editor in chief, ACC Docket, Association of Corporate Counsel

"Engage with others in areas different from your primary areas of responsibility. This provides several benefits for you:

1. Expands your view of the interconnectedness of each program, function, and priority of the association so that you can really see the bigger picture;
2. Positions you as a collaborative and competent participant in many aspects of association management;
3. Builds relationships with others in the organization so that you become a trusted go-to person on any number of fronts."

Pegotty Cooper, leadership and career strategy coach, Leadership Sounding Board