Here’s a post I wrote for MemberViews Monday, a collaboration of bloggers in the association world who have teamed up to share their experiences and knowledge with other association professionals. The first topic in this series hosted by MultiView blogs is Advice for the Emerging Association Professional.

I never expected to work in associations. Frankly, they weren’t even on my radar. But I was leaving one career and in search of another. I took an association job just to have some stability and income while I figured things out. Little did I know, back in 1999, what a rewarding and fascinating profession I was about to enter.

Looking back, I wish I had asked for advice. It took me several years to find my way. If we were to have a “learn from my mistakes” conversation, it would go something like this.

Never stop learning. You will succeed in this profession if you live to learn. This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. Don’t shortchange yourself. Make time for learning even if it’s on your own time. Your older self will thank you.

Be observant. Listen to and watch people. You have to understand human behavior, both individual and group, if you want to motivate, manage and lead staff and members.

Give yourself time to think. You need time every week to plan ahead, set and review goals, and let your brain work its way around challenges and issues. 

Develop a DIY professional development habit. Set aside time to read association management blogs and publications, participate in Twitter’s #assnchat (Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Eastern), and attend association events. If your boss doesn’t give you the time or budget to do these things, do it on your own time. Put aside a small amount of every paycheck, even if it’s only $10, toward professional development. It’s an investment in your future, just like your 401K.

Join your state SAE even if you have to spend your own money. You’ll meet a network of peers that could become lifelong friends.

Look for mentors. Find people in your office or at another association who are active in your SAE or ASAE. They might not consider themselves mentor material so don’t even use the word “mentor” around them. A conversation with them could develop into a mutually satisfying relationship.

Find association peers. If you’re surrounded by colleagues who are only there for the paycheck, don’t be discouraged. Don’t follow them down their boring, soul-deadening path. Find people either in your office or other associations who are around your same age and career level. Twitter makes this so much easier now. Arrange monthly meet-ups. Make them your mastermind group.

Make friends all over the building. Avoid eating lunch alone. Don’t isolate yourself in a departmental silo. Learn about the work your colleagues are doing. How can you help them? How can they help you? What member stories can you share? What can you teach each other?

Pause and reflect before reacting. Expect stressful times. You might start the day expecting to work on specific tasks and projects, but find yourself dealing with other pressing problems, issues and people that weren’t on your list. You will constantly juggle a variety of deadlines and demands.

It’s natural to react quickly and emotionally to these stressors – those same reactions save us in life and death situations. But in the workplace, you must develop the habit of pausing before reacting, and thinking rationally, not emotionally. It’s not easy. Yoga helps, but I don’t expect you to practice yoga as a professional development tool – although it’s not a bad idea.

Become aware of your reactions to your own behavior (self-judging), other people’s behavior, stressful situations and change. If you learn to pause and reflect before reacting, you won’t stress yourself out so much and you’ll be a positive influence on the people around you. 

Don’t be a workaholic. Never put in crazy hours because you think you should, except, of course, for those special times in the meeting, magazine or budget cycle that require it. You and your brain need time off to recharge. You know the people who are always boasting about how busy they are and how late they stayed in the office? They’re not paragons of virtue to emulate. They’re doing it wrong — “it” being life.

Never be defined by your job. If you develop that limited mindset, retirement will be rough. Yes, your job is a huge, rewarding part of your life, but it’s just one part of your life. Make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the relationships and experiences that add color and passion to life. Find people, causes and hobbies to love. You’ll be a happier and more interesting, creative person and professional.

Advice for emerging association professionals

Photo by Andre Mouraux (Flickr CC license)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

What a crazy week, I’m trying to get lots of work done before I take time off during the holidays. I must practice what I preach.

Bill Sheridan at the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA) interviewed Daniel Pink about his new book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Bill asked Dan what he thinks is “the most important skill in today’s rapidly changing environment.” His answer: adaptability. Dan said, “You need to be able to change and adapt. I think people have difficulty with that. Dealing with ambiguity has become profoundly important today. Things are just inherently murkier than they ever have been.”

Bill’s post is required reading. Earlier this year I wrote about Generation Flux and one of its defining traits, the ability to learn new skills. It’s a message we must pound into our brains, and apparently it’s a message that Tom Hood, MACPA’s CEO, preaches as well. Bill said he even has a formula for it: L > C. “That is, in order to flourish, your rate of learning must be greater than the rate of change.” Put that on a t-shirt. In the comments, Tom shared a link where you can pre-order Dan Pink’s book and get freebies too. For a preview, check out the six-page introduction.

My other favorite post of the week is by Colleen Dilenschneider. In Social Media: The Every-Department Job in Nonprofit Organizations, she explains how the job of the marketing professional “has evolved from being a single funnel to media outlets streamlining promotional messages on behalf of an organization, to serving as several funnels to different, targeted demographics based on content from several different departments in a manner that achieves an organization’s long-term goals.” That’s why social media is an organization-wide responsibility, not just marketing’s job.

Siv Rauv provides a very helpful (and illustrated) post at Business 2 Community on how to use social media as a customer service tool. You could use this as the basis for a procedures manual. He says, “It is clear businesses can no longer afford to ignore social media as a customer service platform. Ignore it and you might miss out on building solid relationships with customers, lose a customer, or worse, fuel the wrath of an already angry customer. Respond and receive real consumer feedback, improved brand image and loyal customers.” 

I enjoyed Sarah Lacy’s piece on Pando Daily about what Judd Apatow’s kid can teach us about the Twitter generation. “Basically Judd Apatow accepted what most parents should probably accept: Any control over privacy or what your kid consumes is at best illusory.” It’s fascinating to see the types of skills and attitudes younger generations are naturally adopting because of these new digital platforms. Good lessons for all of us.

Whitson Gordon at Lifehacker gets the Public Service award this week for showing us how to fix ten annoying problems with Facebook, Twitter & other social platforms. Something to do over the holidays!

I’d like to say I’ve been a longtime advocate of poetry, but that’s not true. Although I’ve read my share over the years, I’m a recent convert to its powers. John Coleman discusses the benefits of poetry for professionals at the Daily Good. He says, “Poetry teaches us to wrestle with and simplify complexity,” develop our creativity and sense of empathy, and more. He mentions several poets who were also successful business professionals, but left out one of my favorites, William Carlos Williams, a physician.

I’m sleeping better now that The Walking Dead is on hiatus until next year. No more nightmares about the end of civilization, running out of water and food, and hiding out from sociopaths. Yes, I get a bit too emotionally involved in stories. Even though this show is really about the living and not the dead, fellow fans will love this visual record by the National Post’s Andrew Barr and Richard Johnson of all the zombie kills and the tools used to do the deeds. Daryl’s in second place for kills – they better not kill him off!

Happy Friday!

The man himself (purloined from Next LOL)

The man himself (purloined from Next LOL)

In one corner, a company that made a mess of customer service and then made it worse with social media. A moving company threatened to sue my friend’s wife because she wrote a negative Yelp review about them. The company also purchased positive Yelp reviews, deleted negative Facebook updates, and doesn’t seem to know how to dig itself out except by digging deeper.

“The beautiful part of the Internet is that everyone can now be a publisher. The scary part of the Internet for a company like <name> is that you don’t always know who you’re sending crazy intimidation letters to and how they might respond,” says Phil Buckley, the guy in the other corner. They picked the wrong guy to piss off, Phil happens to be an SEO and Online Reputation Management (ORM) expert. He has a lot of friends, and many of them are also ORM experts. The experts think this makes a great case study – you can’t buy that kind of publicity!

And, Happy Birthday, Phil!

Jeff Cobb at Tagoras is in the midst of updating their Association Learning Management Systems (LMS) report. He and Celisa Steele have been talking to LMS vendors and participating in demonstrations of platforms. He’s identified four association learning technology trends: “I can already see that there are at least four areas in which some very significant progress has been achieved over the past couple of years. I’m labeling these broadly as integration, convergence, mobility, and analytics.” Exciting times for associations with the educational innovations that await!

As our use of new social and digital platforms and technology evolves, irksome issues crop up, well, they’re irksome for some, not all. A sports reporter was “reprimanded” by the University of Washington athletic department for excessive tweeting during a basketball game. Sam Laird at Mashable writes, “As the ability to provide real-time updates becomes more and more common — and as the line between reporter and spectator becomes increasingly blurred — should the rights to live updates be protected to the same degree as TV and radio broadcasts?” Another example of an organization having a tough time giving up control? Or are their rights being infringed? I tend to side with the reporter on this one.

One more Twitter item: can we all just agree that you should never retweet something without first reading it? Good. I’m glad you see it my way, you’re a good citizen.

How different would the world be if everyone had access to high-quality education and a bigger world of ideas? Call me a dreamer, but I think we’d have less crazy extremism, ignorance, and poverty. Maybe the $20 Aakash tablet made by Suneet Tuli’s company, Datawind, is a step in that direction. Christopher Mims at Quartz reports that India’s government wants to distribute Datawind’s tablet to India’s 220 million students. It would be cheaper than buying textbooks. Tuli wants to educate the “ignored billion.” He says, “Our effort in all of this was to use technology to fight poverty. What happens when you try to make it affordable at this level?”

“Calling all publishers, editors, and content creators: If you’re creating content for a business, you are marketing. But you might be missing out on all that you can achieve with your superb content if you are not content marketing.” That’s the rallying cry of The Content Marketing Manifesto by Monica Bussolati, her recently released e-book – a call to action you should heed if you run a business or organization. I’ve only skimmed through the book because I’m planning to read it this weekend, but I can already tell I’m going to be reading along saying “Yes!” out loud, and probably learning a good deal as well, and as usual, from Monica.

Blogs are one of my favorite content marketing tools, but they’re also a great way to think out loud and become part of a larger conversation, according to Seth Godin. “No single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important to my life than blogging,” says Tom Peters. He goes on: “And it’s the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude that I’ve ever had.” Well then! Maddie Grant found this short video of Godin and Peters talking about blogs. It’s only 1:38 minutes, come on, click!

For those of you who read last week’s post and had doubts about an old band led by two guys in their late 60s: I’m happy to report that The Who exceeded my expectations, and my boyfriend’s, whose expectations were much lower. They did the entire Quadrophenia album, followed it up with five Who classics, and then a quiet version of Tea & Theater with just Roger and Pete on the stage. The highlights of the evening: Roger’s voice and efforts to get every note and scream right; Zak Starkey’s Moon-like melodic bombastic drumming (he is so damn good); video solos by, rest their souls, John in 5:15 and Keith in, what else, Bellboy; the mesmerizing Quadrophenia instrumentals; and being in the same room as Pete. Long live rock.

Happy Friday!

Young Zak Starkey with godfather Keith Moon (credit unknown)

“It’s a tragic fact that most of us know only how to be taught; we haven’t learned how to learn.”

Jeff Cobb, self-described “lifelong learning fanatic” and founder of Tagoras and Mission to Learn, introduced me to that quote from Malcolm Knowles, the adult education expert of the late 20th century. In a recent webinar about his book, 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner, Jeff talked about why it’s so critical, especially now, to be a lifelong learner:

  • Because of the speed and complexity of our world, we are at risk of information overload. We have to develop techniques to navigate this flow, absorb it, and develop knowledge from it.
  • Learning doesn’t stop at graduation. In “the other 50 years” we need to keep developing. Learning is a process, not an outcome.
  • We live in a learning economy, or as Jeff calls it, “a figure-it-out-on-a-daily-basis economy.” To thrive, we must keep acquiring new knowledge and skills.

According to Jeff, lifelong learning is no longer optional, it’s required. When he talks about learning, he means self-directed learning as well as formal learning (courses and classes). He defines learning as “a lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors and attitudes.”

In 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner, which you can also download as an eBook for a very inexpensive price, Jeff advises starting with one or two of the Ways. Focus first on them and make them part of your life before trying any others. At his website, he provides resources to help you explore each one. Here are a few to consider.

Read the rest of Lifelong Learning is a Requirement, not an Option at the Avectra blog.

lifelong learning

Photo by integerpoet (Flickr)

Let’s start with a freebie! Jeff Cobb has a slew of great ideas about lifelong learning and he practices what he preaches, so it’s not a bunch of hoo-haw. He’s offering a free Kindle version of his book, 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner – but today is the last day to download it, so chop chop!

“Lifelong learning” may sound cliché to some, but it’s a necessary mindset and practice to survive and thrive in our ever-changing world. If reading isn’t your thing (gasp!), then check out the webinar Jeff is doing today at 1pm Eastern on 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner.

Content marketing sounds so smart in theory, but how the heck do you get it done when everyone on staff is already stretched thin. John Bell has some ideas in Getting Internal Experts to Create Content.

Over at Marketing Sherpa, Courtney Eckerle is ready with more advice, seven steps, in fact, for creating and optimizing content in any size organization. With her post at your side, you will start to think, “Yeah, we can do this.”

If your organization wants to become an industry source for curated content – and frankly, why wouldn’t you? – you must check out Leo Dirr’s post: How to Consistently Out-Curate Your Competitors. It’s packed full of tactics and content sources – one of the most thorough I’ve seen.

I am such a sucker for serendipity. The more you’re open to it, the more you get. I love this post at GigaOm by Mathew Ingram about the effect social media has on his real-world serendipity. This could happen to you!

This book intrigues me, but I already have too many unread books: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson. Is this really the future? We’ll see. I’ve noticed lots of reviews lately for this book, but the first one I read was by Andrew Keen at Barnes & Noble. So I better not link to Amazon, huh?

If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of professional cycling, especially of the American team Garmin-Sharp founded by ex-pro cyclist Jonathan Vaughters as an alternative to the predominant doping culture of most professional teams. Many of my favorite cyclists used to dope and have ‘fessed up and cleaned up. Others, I still wonder about. Omerta in the cycling culture is strong, but beginning to crumble.

For years, there’s been suspicion about Lance Armstrong’s doping habits. But he’s used his money and prestige to paint any accusers as liars or disgruntled employees or teammates. If you want to know the truth about Lance and his team director Johan Bruyneel, you can read through the recently released USADA report, or check out the salacious bits shared by The Daily Beast.

Even better, read the book ex-doper and former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton co-wrote with Daniel Coyle. I read the whole thing the weekend it came out, it’s an easy read — The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs. That pretty much describes Lance.

I’ll leave you with some music inspired by my Coursera modern poetry class. Hat tip to Brain Picker for this one: Emily Dickinson’s poetry set to music by Israeli singer-songwriter, Efrat Ben Zur. Sort of Cocteau Twins meets Massive Attack meets Patti Smith, or something like that.

Happy Friday!

emily dickinson poetry set to music - I am Nobody

“Sometimes I try to leave my narrow path and join the swirling mainstream of life, but I always find myself drawn inexorably back toward the chasm’s edge…”

He’s a dark one, Edvard Munch. I always knew he was the broody type, but until I learned more about him from John Coffey, deputy director for art at the N.C. Museum of Art, I had no idea how haunted and anxious he was. “Troubled, but powerful,” says Architects & Artisans.

Last Thursday I was invited by the museum to attend the media tour of Edvard Munch: Symbolism in Print, so I expect to be a bit Munch-obsessed for the next month or so. But unlike Munch, I’ll do it in a celebratory, not despairing, way. To get a taste of the exhibit, check out the collection of tweets from WRAL producer Stephanie Beck.

If you’re in NC, I recommend seeing it, or for double the pleasure, wait until October 21 when an exhibition of still-life masterpieces visits us from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

I’m featuring the work of Jeff Cobb twice this week, not because he’s a North Carolina guy, but because he published two good posts about lifelong learning. On his company blog, Tagoras, he asked why associations don’t have a bigger presence in the conversation about the need for lifelong learning and skills-retooling in today’s learning economy. “As far as I can tell, we do not yet seem to be offering much of a voice in the public conversation about the growing skill (and knowledge) gap and the critical need for effective lifelong learning.”

Read more on DIY retooling in this New York Times article by Shaila Dewan: To Stay Relevant in a Career, Workers Train Nonstop. I would say “to stay relevant,” period. We’ve had or will have many careers in our lives.

The other great post from Jeff was on his Mission to Learn blog about his “learning walks.” Thanks to his idea, I’ve stayed out longer on several of my walks around the neighborhood because the podcast wasn’t quite over.

Peg Tyre wrote at The Atlantic about a failing Staten Island high school that identified the underlying problem for many of their students: their “inability to translate thoughts into coherent, well-argued sentences, paragraphs, and essays was severely impeding intellectual growth in many subjects.” After much research, they retrained teachers and reworked the curriculum by “placing an overwhelming focus on teaching the basics of analytic writing, every day, in virtually every class.” The results? Higher graduation rates and test scores, and inspired kids.

When I moved to California in 2004 from Washington DC, one of my friends said I would have no problem making the adjustment because I was “bicoastal.” She was right; I loved my life in Sacramento and only returned to the east to be with my honey. Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience digs into the cultural differences between the east and west coasts, specifically Boston and San Francisco. I grew up south of Boston and spent a lot of time in SF while I lived in California (my brother and friends lived there), and I think she’s on to something here.

Last one – a practical one, ICYMI, Kevin O’Keefe shares a guide to Twitter language and acronyms.

Happy Friday!

This is not your typical Madonna. This one might need a cigarette soon. (Edvard Munch, 1895-1902, Museum of Modern Art)

I’ll get to my favorite reads of the week in just a bit, but first, indulge me for a moment. It will make you feel good, promise.

My tweet of week won’t surprise anyone who saw my tweets last Friday or Saturday:

@FoodBankJenC: Thank you so much to everyone who supported the 24 Hour Telethon $20,500 & 3,300 lbs raised. Huge thanks @gregoryng @mikeadamsnc #FoodBank24

The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina held their first 24-hour fundraising telethon (#foodbank24). They hosted a live video stream on their website and all kinds of fun events at the warehouse. As you can see by their tweet, the telethon was a huge success. How cool is that!

My heroes of the week are Gregory Ng, telethon talent aka frozen food master Freezer Burns, and Mike Adams, telethon producer aka the man behind the curtain with 5-hour energy can in hand. I have huge admiration and respect for these two guys who gave up any semblance of a normal life for well over 24 hours to help out the Food Bank. Deep bow. 

@GregoryNg: #FoodBank24 may be over but the problem of hunger remains. Learn how you can make a difference here http://bit.ly/dyLaSX

@MikeAdamsNC: OMG, finally at home in my bed! What a great couple of days for such a great cause! #FoodBank24

What else have I been digging lately? Will Burns’ Ideasicle podcasts, that’s what. Will explores ideation and creativity in his interviews with a fascinating mix of creative types. I’ve been listening to these on my exercise walks – very inspiring.

And look, a social media case study! Don’t yawn, this one features a small company that, without even intending to use social media, ended up having great success despite themselves. Andre Bourque uncovers the story at VentureBeat: How Pinterest & a Single Blog Post Completely Changed a Company.

Who else is tired of hearing self-righteous political rants 24/7? I see a lot of hands out there. Don’t get me wrong, I find politics fascinating. And I vote in every election, so there, my bona fides. But I’m tired of seeing political tweets and Facebook updates with a “we’re so much better and smarter than the other side” smugness and disdain. I get that you’re passionate, but the world is not black and white, yes, there really are many shades of gray. Your passion is tiresome. Partisan scorn, no matter what side it comes from, is loathsome.

I wonder if Tara Hunt would agree. Last week she shared: 5 Things I’ve Learned By Listening to People Whose Views Differ. Her first lesson: “Just because someone doesn’t agree with you or thinks in a manner that opposes your views doesn’t mean he or she is uneducated or idiotic.” I only wish our politicians felt the same way.

And along those lines, here’s what happens when that mindset goes over the edge into the scary extreme. The New Yorker ran a powerful excerpt from Salman Rushdie’s forthcoming book: The Disappeared: How the Fatwa Changed a Life. I’ve only read one book by Rushdie – Midnight’s Children – and what a book it was, I highly recommend it. Have any of you read Satanic Verses?

This week I also became a huge fan of Emily Dickinson. And by the time the weekend’s over, I expect to be raving about Walt Whitman too. I’m taking a modern and contemporary poetry class from Coursera. I’m curious to see how effective and enjoyable a MOOC is – that’s a massive online open course. Plus I’m eager to give my creative muscle a poetic work out.

Ready to get your learn on? Goodnet shared a list of 7 Free Education Websites You Don’t Want to Miss. As they say, “Home schooling is for grownups too!”

The Food Bank’s Jen Newmeyer and Jen Caslin with Gregory Ng

I lead off this week with a request to your heart. And wallet. Tonight, as you sit down to dinner, thousands of families in your area struggle to provide a nutritious meal to their kids. Food donations are decreasing, yet the number of adults and kids who go hungry every day is increasing.

In an effort to raise awareness, funds, and food as part of Hunger Action Month, starting at 6pm tonight, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina will stream live online for 24 hours from their warehouse in Raleigh. The telethon will be hosted by Gregory Ng of the popular online frozen food review show, FreezerBurns. Please visit their website and donate to our food bank, or to your local food bank.

Update: If you’re in DC, MD, or VA, check out what DelCor is doing to raise funds (and food) for the Capital Area Food Bank.

Now, back to the best of the week. Thanks for hanging in there with me, and for any help you can give to your local food bank.

My favorite tweet this week came via Dave Phillips – whom I’m featuring in my next Avectra post about association CEOs who excel at social media:

RT @ValaAfshar: Don’t do social, be S.O.C.I.A.L. – sincere | open | collaborative | interested | authentic | likeable.

My favorite hashtag of the week was from the Content Marketing World conference held in Columbus, OH: #cmworld. I have GOT to put that conference in my 2013 budget.

Mention the name Beth Kanter to any gathering of online non-profit folks and prepare for gushing adulations. Everyone loves Beth, and for good reason. She’s been dishing out good digital advice since, well, since forever it seems. Check out her tips to avoid getting content-fried – “a potential hazard for content curators,” she writes, but I’d add for many other folks who want to avoid getting distracted by the information deluge at our fingertips. All of them will bring more zen and less stress to your life.

I’ve been getting into online education lately – a fascinating area full of opportunity for associations. It’s been several years since I took an online class but next week I start one from Coursera – modern poetry. I expect it to be a nice kick to the right side of my brain. Jeff Cobb of Tagoras has been the e-learning guru of the association community before it was cool. Recently he wrote about “five key changes I think are needed if we really want to see a revolution in association education.” If you care about association education, this is required reading.

Facebook is an easy target for derision because they don’t really care about the user experience. We’re just data for sale. Despite its shortcomings, I still love Facebook because it helps me connect to family and friends in a way I didn’t have before. You see, I’m a bad friend (and sister, and cousin, and aunt) who doesn’t pick up the phone like I should, so thank god for Facebook. Alexandra Samuel pointed out another benefit – seven ways to enhance your vacations with Facebook.

Oh dear, I was going to point out a good post about things your customers wish you knew about them, but apparently the people who wrote that post don’t know that most of us HATE having to close those damn sign-up-for-our-newsletter pop-up boxes before we can even get to the post we wanted to read. So forget them.

You’ve probably seen this pair of posts from Fast Company making their way around Twitter, but maybe not. Perhaps this is the moment that will change your life! Find out from Kevin Purdy what successful people do with the first hour of their work day. And then, Lydia Dishman tells us what successful night owls get done before bed. After reading them you’ll either feel smugly awesome because you do a lot of these things already, or you’ll feel slightly inadequate because, well, you know.

Cheer up, it’s Friday!

beer relaxed weekly best reads

Photo by Fluffisch (Flickr)

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