How CAE Study Groups are Like Dating

By: Nicole E. Ratner, CAE

Like a personal relationship, working with a CAE study group should be an easy conversation between people and should leave you wanting to get together again to learn even more.

Sweaty palms, nervous excitement, heart racing just a little. I wonder what it will be like. Will we hit it off? Are we going to get together again?

Do any of these sound familiar? For me, this is how I felt before my first date with my now husband. However, a year later I had the same feelings before going on my first "date" with my Certified Association Executive study group.

Dating (noun)

  • the activity of going out regularly with somebody as a social or romantic partner.(Bing)
  • the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public. (Wikipedia)

Setting Up The Date

Typically, when dating we tend to look for similarities in our partners. Knowing that you have commonalities tends to make the conversation flow a bit easier. The same is true for choosing your CAE study group. You've already made the step in choosing to sit for the CAE exam, and so you and your group members have that in common, not to mention the background in association management. We choose partners that we connect with and ones that we learn from.

So, who makes the first move to initiate the "date"?

For me, our group formed after attending the CAE Immersion Program through ASAE. It was prompted by our leaders, so they facilitated in initiating our first "date". We were all local to the Northern Virginia area and chose to meet every Saturday leading up to the exam for a few hours first thing in the morning. But it's easy to make that first move even if you aren't involved in an in-person program. You can post a message to the CAE Candidate Collaborate discussion group or visit, where you can find resources for study groups across the country.

First Date

Prior to our first date as a study group, we drew up an outline based on the recommended reading and domain areas and assigned members particular domains. Each week, a new member was responsible for teaching the others the subject matter for that week.

Sounds boring; dates should be fun, right? For us we made sure to spice it up and played games, collaborated in small groups, and always made sure to have quizzes. We kept it fun and that made it a bit easier to get through such heavy reading.

Each one of the members contributed to the discussion, and this was a wonderful way to learn from other associations. The first date should be easy conversation between the people, not dominated by just one person, and it should leave you wanting to get together again.

Wanting More

All good relationships take work to keep them going strong, and our group committed to that work. We were mindful of each other's day jobs and personal commitments. Once each week was done, it left us feeling good, for the most part, about what we learned. It wasn't always easy, but we got through it together.

On occasion we still have "dates" to keep up with one another and continue the learning both personally and professionally. Dating should be fun; it's a time to figure out what you like and dislike and what you are looking for in a lifelong partner. Finding the perfect CAE study group fit is very similar. Just remember you're not alone in the journey and you'll do great.

Nicole E. Ratner, CAE, CMP, is executive director of the American Association of Attorney-CPAs in Fairfax, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

Nicole E. Ratner, CAE