A Day in the Life: Growing the Profession

Nicholas Bailey of the Association Forum of Chicagoland offers a glimpse of his work toward diversifying the association community.

Name: Nicholas Bailey

Title: Workforce development manager

Organization: Association Forum of Chicagoland

Location: Chicago   

Organization size: 16 staff, 3,000 members

Role: The Association Forum of Chicagoland has pledged to help increase the diversity of the association community, both in and outside the Chicago area. Bailey's role is to support those efforts, from advising students considering their future career paths to assisting diverse individuals who are already part of the association community.

History: Bailey has been involved with the association community for seven years, starting with an administrative assistant position with the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy in 2003. Within eight months, he was promoted to education coordinator, with a focus on the many details involved in continuing medical education.

After three years, he moved to a special projects coordinator position with the International Association of Lighting Designers—a position that offered him the opportunity to do "a little bit of membership, a little bit of sponsorship, a little bit of foundation work—it was a mix of everything," Bailey says.

In December 2008, he joined the Association Forum of Chicagoland as its workforce development manager. "When I worked with IALD, I would go to tradeshows and talk about the benefits of having a lighting designer on projects," Bailey says. "I thought, how much more would I love talking to future or potential association professionals about why I love working in the association world and the benefits of working in the association community? That was the major attraction to the workforce development manager role at the Association Forum: to be able to conduct outreach and tell people about the association world."

7:50 a.m.: It's a typical Monday morning on the train in Chicago. Like about 80 percent of the other people I see, I'm on my BlackBerry the whole trip. I like to read my emails before I get into the office; it helps me to expect what my day will be like so I get into the mindset of what I need to accomplish.

8:45 a.m.: I drop my bag at my desk and head to the kitchen to get some coffee. On the way back, I say hello to my boss and other colleagues who are in the office. Then I settle in and start answering those emails and crossing off to-do list items.

9:30 a.m.: It's time for our weekly Association Forum staff meeting. When I first started here, I didn't understand why we would need to have a meeting every Monday. But I've come to learn the value of sitting down with the entire team.

When I first started, we used to go around the table and talk about projects we were working on. We would review membership, sponsorship, and education numbers.

We've now moved to a more efficient agenda format, in which we hash out what will happen this week at the Association Forum. We bring up items that require assistance from others and provide updates. The agenda keeps our meetings to about 30 to 45 minutes.

10:10 a.m.: Back to my desk for more emailing, returning phone calls, checking voicemail—the basics of a workday.

I have a couple of outstanding phone calls with recruiters who are looking to have Association Forum exhibit in their career fairs. In a perfect world where all organizations are hiring, I would typically agree to handle the logistics for an Association Forum presence at both of those events and then reach out to members to volunteer there. We had to take a hard look at budgets and prioritize, and we decided to focus on activities that would have more of a return on our investment; considering that the job market is slow, there wasn't much to talk about in terms of openings at Chicago associations. Even with the budget cuts, we'll do what we can this spring to hit the diversity career fairs in the Chicagoland area, as well as the colleges and universities in the area.

11:15 a.m.: I proofread and double check the handouts for a career brown-bag lunch we're holding tomorrow.

Our brown-bag series is relatively new. Originally, we had planned on just a four-part series of lunches for our members in transition. But the series was so popular that we transformed it to a monthly event.

Each lunch focuses on ways members in transition can stay active in the workforce, tools and ideas to help them find a position, and even career-building and coaching for members who are in a position but hoping to find something new. We conducted a senior-level event on using Facebook and LinkedIn in a job search. We also had someone from a staffing agency talk about habits that job seekers need to have. I'm coordinating the brown bags, so I've been spending a lot of time finding facilitators and working with them to plan each program.

1:50 p.m.: I respond to an email from an outside consultant who is working with me on our annual compensation and benefits study. He takes care of the actual research, but I help him get the membership list together for the survey and market the study to our members so they know how important it is to respond to the questionnaire.

2:05 p.m.: The Association Forum Young Professionals Shared Interest Group is having a networking outing on Wednesday. I'm the staff liaison to the Young Professionals SIG, as well as the Diversity and Workforce Development Committee and the HR SIG, so I make a few calls to finalize the logistics and send out final confirmations to the preregistered attendees. Once all that's taken care of, I touch base with the SIG chair about the last-minute details.

I'm glad to have a chance to work with the Young Professionals SIG, partially because I'm the youngest person on staff, and partially because it relates so well to my job. The SIG exists to develop younger members in their career, and that's what I'm personally passionate about.

3:55 p.m.: I email the Association Forum Workforce Diversity Scholars to see how they're doing. As part of my overall support for the Diversity Committee, I manage the application process for the scholars each year. Then, once all of the scholars are selected, I serve as a liaison for the scholars and their mentors.

I think our scholars most enjoy the mentoring aspect of the program, so it's important to me to reach out to them to make sure that they're getting the mentoring and career support that they need.

4:40 p.m.: I stop by to chat with the executive editor of FORUM magazine about some upcoming articles and YouTube videos she's working on. A member of the Diversity Committee sits on the magazine's Editorial Working Group to help when the magazine is looking for article ideas and sources, ensuring at least four diversity-related articles appear in FORUM each year. I want to make sure the magazine staff have all of the information they need to make it easier to reflect the diversity of our membership.

5:50 p.m.: I look up and realize it's almost time to catch my train home, so I finish the email I'm working on and pack up my things. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's brown bag and the young professionals event on Wednesday. It should be a good week.