Thursday, June 14, 2012

Experience, Curiosity & Questions

I recently read a post by Joe Rominiecki discussing his 5 years experience as an association executive at ASAE.  Coincidentally, I have double the experience of Joe and I have to tell you, I too have many unanswered questions.  For the sake of brevity, I won't dump them all here, instead I will chunk them into five questions.

  1. How many people in marketing actually majored in business and or marketing? I spent 10 years doing marketing with or for non-profits, and my education had little to do with marketing.  My B.A is in American Studies, while my M.A is in Communications.  American Studies is based in history and likes to flirt with many other disciplines, it was heavy on reading and writing, which did serve me well.  Communications and marketing seem like they are closely related but if you had asked me 5 years ago which disciple I preferred, I would have told you marketing.  Today, professionals have to have more of a hybrid approach in the non-profit arena because you're dealing with limited resources and if you don't have a skill set you learn it.  Which leads me to my next question...
  2. Experience or education? It's a follow up question to the one above, but what's more valuable your experience as a non-profit professional or a certificate in non-profit management? Here are some things that I learned on the job but not in school: managing vendors (designers, printers), understanding how to talk to those vendors so that it didn't cost you an arm and leg, politics (make nice with everyone, it makes your life easier, seriously), and try to make your boss look good no matter what.
  3. Does anyone feel secure in their job? With the great recession, I can tell you I was not immune to being laid-off.  I worked for a small 6 staff association, and I was the last to be hired and the first to go when times got tough.  The association had never had someone do marketing for them, and the board didn't see the value in continuing it.  I spent three months of poorly paid government vacation being laid-off before I found my next gig.  What did it teach me? I shouldn't take my job for granted and I should do the best job that I can each and everyday.  Even with that, their are no guarantees. 
  4.  Is change that hard? Perhaps it's my age, which isn't very old, but I don't find change to be that hard.  Just because you have always done something a certain way doesn't mean you should keep doing it that way.  However, when I find myself at the crossroads of making a change I am often lingering with doubt.  Is this the right decision? Should I choose this new vendor over the one I already know? What if this change doesn't go the way I want it to? So many follow up questions, and a lot here. 
  5. How do we stay relevant with our members (customers)?  As former non-profit professional, keeping the association on the top of our member's minds was something that I spent a lot of time working on.  Emails, print, social media, I tried it all.  What did I find, people have so much information, that they rarely engaged with the association, or me.  I keep wondering, what do we as association professionals have to do to provide a service to members that they can't live without.  For your association the answer might be different.  
Basically, I think we all learn from our experience, in the end, my quest for additional knowledge always wins out.  How can I do better? What did I learn today? If I were my member, what would I think? 

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