Monday, December 1, 2014

Do I Still Belong In The Association Space?

What does the future hold in store for me? The picture isn't clear.
I never anticipated becoming an association executive.

I still remember moving to Bethesda, Maryland, from Joplin, Missouri, starting my first job in associations - working for the Parenteral Drug Association. What was an association and how could I explain it to my family? These were the questions that plagued me whenever I wasn't worried about how to make my next strategic move to make more money and move up in position.

What I learned was that working for associations was unlike working for a business in the corporate world. There were a few similarities, but the focus on membership and mission and the way that played out during board meetings was still different than what I'd seen from non-association businesses.

Time passed. I became a regular volunteer for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Associations became my home and I found myself dreaming of winning awards for being a Rising Star in Associations or getting my picture on the cover of Associations Now.  I worked for the American Red Cross National Headquarters and then the Optical Society of America. I was focused in membership (specifically chapter development) and then took on the evolution of social media for the association, leading me to start presenting on it at ASAE events. Somewhere along the way I became a go-to person for social media and I joined DelCor as a senior consultant. My role? Digital strategy and social media. I was excited.

While there I created the DelCor Social Media Sweet Spot, a weekly web show for the association world that took place on Fridays. I also inherited the weekly Association Chat (#assnchat) on Twitter, becoming the moderator for the chat every Tuesday. Information and connections were mine to be had and I loved it.

Then things changed. I decided to create my own consulting firm, Amplified Growth, and about a year after the feast and famine roller-coaster that is entrepreneurialism, joined Aptify as a senior consultant in social media, creating a new line of business for them. I left Aptify by the end of September this year and I am currently working on some consulting projects for clients, primarily doing social media maintenance for several brands.

I am talking to a couple people about some ways my consulting work could work in collaboration with their products and services...thinking about how to better service associations in their membership offerings and also with their event planning. Exciting! There is part of me that also wonders if I shouldn't go back to being an association executive - working directly for an association, being part of their ongoing mission.

In the meantime, my husband keeps forwarding job opportunities to work as a social media manager for agencies that have nothing to do with associations.

The path isn't clear. At least, it isn't clear to me. Last week I received my dues renewal notice from ASAE and I wonder if I still belong. I still devour my Associations Now magazine every month when I get it. I still want to prove myself worthy as a meaningful contributor to the association realm. But is life taking me a different direction? I'm almost afraid to mention the possibility, but life is kind of crazy that way and who am I to ignore it?

Do I still belong in the association space? I think so. I suppose we'll find out together.