A family tree of association professionals isn't something you come across every day. But growing up in the association world helped one young professional get a head start in the industry.
In this inaugural edition of the ASAE Young Professionals Committee's member insights feature, Allie Mamone, manager of member services and technology at the National Grocers Association, shares her experience entering the nonprofit industry as a second-generation professional.
YPC: Why did you choose the association industry as a career?
Mamone: The month before I graduated college I had a conversation with my dad about what my plans were for the future. Since I had a business degree he suggested I start looking for entry-level positions at associations, as I had one thing other candidates did not have: industry knowledge.
My father had been in the association world for many years, and my mother just jumped into the industry, too. So, for about a week I sent out my resume every day. I received three interviews and a job offer before I had even taken my finals.
I don't like to say I choose the association industry, because I was born into it. I knew that if I worked for an association I could try my hand at different areas of business. The possibilities were incredible: meetings—I could actually use my hospitality management degree—marketing, finance, membership, and government relations.
Even with your prior exposure to associations, were there any aspects of the job that you struggled with early on in your career, and how did you overcome those?
There were definitely things I struggled with at the beginning. Adjusting to a professional work environment was difficult, as I am sure most young professionals know. I generally like to be the "nice" person and please everyone, and I've had to learn that you can't be best friends with everyone you work with. Sometimes you need to say no to people. I try to remain friendly with everyone but stay as professional as I can.
How prevalent are multigeneration association professionals?
When I am at industry events and mention both my parents working for associations, I usually get the "No way, weird!" comments, similar to when I tell people I was actually born and raised in Washington, DC. I don't think a lot of little kids grow up saying, "I want to work for an association," myself included.
With that being said, I did know this industry from a young age. Every year I would go to Take Your Daughter to Work Day with my dad. While my friends were learning about government sectors, I was learning about association management. I have years of annual meeting knowledge as all of my family vacations were scheduled around one of my dad's meetings.
When it came time to put my resume together, I knew that my industry knowledge would be invaluable. I think any association professional can agree the hardest part of our jobs is explaining what we actually do. While there are few second-generation association professionals in the industry, I think we will see a surge in the coming years.
What are the most attractive elements of an association career for a young professional?
Associations allow a young professional a great mix of disciplines and an opportunity to work for industries that make a difference in the world. You can get a taste of everything from member relations to events to government relations. Many associations are small enough that you can experience every aspect of the industry.
What is your career path moving forward and what steps do you plan to take to achieve those goals?
I would love to do more with meeting planning. I really enjoy traveling, and I think I have great attention to detail. Plus, all my vacations occurred at association meetings growing up, so technically I have over 20 years of experience. I think the best way to achieve any of your goals is to work toward what you want, put in the time and effort to learn more about it, and strive to attain the highest level of knowledge.
For more information on the ASAE Young Professionals Committee, visit the YP Resources pageor contact Bryan Harrison, senior manager of networks at the Specialty Equipment Market Association. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org