What it takes to improve yourself
This Small Staff Week post was written by Marianne Fray, CAE, also from the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association.
It takes a village to get an advanced degree or a credential. Is it worth it? I suggest knowing what you want to achieve before taking the plunge!
I am one of nine professional staff who works for the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA). The HBA is dedicated to the advancement and impact of women in healthcare worldwide. We have more than 6,000 individual members, nearly 120 corporate partners, 15 chapters throughout the U.S. and Europe, and nearly 250 volunteer leaders. We have enjoyed significant membership and product growth in the past three years. The time commitment to achieve this success, with so few staff, is significant. So, where did I find time to pursue certification, and was it worth it? There is no question the answer is yes, because I wanted to better understand the not-for-profit world.
I grew up in the for-profit sector, holding positions in marketing and sales in the telecommunications industry. My previous employer offered to pay for my MBA, so I thought, "Why not?" The discipline of balancing my workloads at school, work, and home served me well as I pursued other professional and personal goals. The MBA opened doors for me and gave me confidence to serve my clients even better.
When I transitioned from for-profit to not-for-profit, I quickly learned that there were different lexicons. I was introduced to governance, membership, component and government relations, Roberts Rules of Order, motions, bylaws, etc. I could read a balance sheet, but felt lost in this new world. I needed a more focused understanding of this new sector.
I decided to pursue my CAPM, Certified Associate in Project Management, as I was working with project managers. A CAPM helped me better understand and speak their language. Preparing for this exam was very different than earning my MBA. A certification or credential tests for specific knowledge and proficiency in a particular area or related areas. An advanced degree, on the other hand, focuses on building broad knowledge in a functional area, while strengthening critical-thinking and team-building skills.
With the required 5 years experience in not-for-profits under my belt, along with the experience of earning my CAPM, I was now qualified to sit for my CAE. If I thought pursuing my MBA and CAPM while working full time was hard, balancing the workload in a small association while preparing for the CAE exam was almost unbearable. There was no team to back me up at work. It would have been easy to put it off, thinking I would get to it one day. I got through, literally, a day at a time. I allocated most of my personal time to study.
In December of 2010, I earned my CAE. Yes, it was worth it for me, and professional development is essential for you as well. Whether you thinking about a certification or other training or education, it will always look insurmountable when you think of yourself as being alone. But the unifying thread between all of my post-baccalaureate achievements was the full support of my family and team members. I'm convinced that no one earns an advanced degree or credential on their own; it takes a village. I am grateful for my village, and I encourage those thinking of taking the plunge to look to their village for support too!