Why an AMC is a great place for the young association professional
Opening up my email early on a Monday morning, I see my conference chairs have decided they would like to add a live Twitter feed stream at our conference. Not having done this before, this could easily make for the start of a very bad day, but luckily I work at an association management company (AMC) and recalled having a lunchroom conversation with a coworker about their client adding the very same thing to their meeting. Instead of dread, I just head down the hallway to my coworkers office to discuss the details of this project.
If you would have asked me what an association management company was five years ago, I would have just stared blankly back at you. Little did I know then, an AMC would be the single greatest influencer of my professional career and has prepared me for my role as associate executive director in ways only an AMC could offer.
To start, the AMC model provides associations with executive leadership, specialists, and professional services. My AMC is structured in a way that each client has its own staff, and the support services (such as IT, web, accounting, HR, etc) are shared among the clients. Now, you may be asking what makes an AMC so much better for young association professionals (YAPs)? Well first, I'm not saying an AMC is better for the association, I'm saying different. I'm not making any judgment calls on what type of structure is better for an association's members or their mission. What I am saying is AMC's can give YAPs a unique experience.
What type of experiences? For starters, how about having a mini-ASAE in your office? As I mentioned in the story above, instead of one membership or education department, imagine having access to 10, 15, or more people doing a similar job, just a few feet from your desk. It only takes a few conversations to track down a person who can show you how their client handled a similar new project your volunteer leadership has thrown at you. This becomes especially useful when you are located outside of the DC/Chicago markets. As someone located in the tropical paradise (if I wish enough it might come true) of Milwaukee, Wis., the pool of people working in association management is a tad smaller.
AMCs also offer you a window into multiple organizations at the same time. Unlike a stand-alone, you are exposed to a wide variety of organizational cultures that range from formal and business-like to some that seem to be more of an extended family. Having this exposure allows you to learn what type of organization culture fits you without having to jump jobs.
Finally, for YAPs, payment comes in many forms, the first of which is experience to put on your rÃ©sumÃ©. AMCs afford you a great opportunity to gain broad experience in a relatively short amount of time. Although I have technically only worked for one client my entire time at my current AMC, I have had the opportunity to work on cross-team projects with a number of internal groups and attend other client's annual conferences.
These are the main reasons I feel my experience working at an AMC has been a valuable asset to my career, but as I'm still in the beginning stages of my career, I would be interested in hearing from others as to what about their first job in association management made a lasting impact.
Benjamin H. Butz, MPA, is associate executive director of the American Association of Medical Society Executives, a client of the association management firm Executive Directors, Inc. in Milwaukee, Wis. He is a graduate of the inaugural class of the ASAE Leadership Academy.
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