One night, you worry about remembering economics concepts for your 9 am exam, and on the next all you have in your mind is, "What now?"
That was how my last days of undergrad had me: a relieving feeling of accomplishment, as well as an unsettling questioning about what was going to happen next. And, suddenly, as I was swapping my study notes for resumes, I was offered a position that was a perfect fit with what I was looking for. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in an office in Toronto’s financial district with a box of business cards in front of me that read "Camila Farah, Coordinator, Conference & Events, CSAE".
And here I am now: sharing my thoughts on how it is to work with events for an association when you’ve only officially been part of the "grown-ups" workforce for eight months.
The Learning Curve
As soon as I joined the Canadian Society of Association Executives, I realized that while my days of studying were behind me, the REAL learning was just about to start.
Taking my position in the Conference & Events team just a month-and-a-half before our Annual Conference and Showcase gave me the chance to become completely submerged in what it takes to plan and execute a three-day event, for over 400 delegates. However, before I even started completing registrations I had to quickly learn simple concepts from "Events 101," such as "What is an easel back sign?" and "How big is an eight-inch table?"
As much as Google can help us in times like these, there isn’t anything like asking those around you for help. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who didn’t mind explaining (and re-explaining) things to me. All I had to do was to not be afraid of reaching out to them to ask questions.
The Thrill of the Ride
Another thing I quickly figured out is that it is mostly your role to make your job exciting.
Although the organizational structure can play a big role in terms of how much room employees have for change, well thought-out ideas backed up by a good plan will rarely be looked down on. It doesn’t matter if you work for a big company, a not-for-profit, or a start-up—you can make your job very exciting once you decide to put your foot on the accelerator and take your job to the next level. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing things in a specific way. There is always room for improvement, and most organizations acknowledge that.
CSAE is currently at a very interesting and exciting turn: the CSAE’s Annual Conference & Showcase is being revamped, with the addition of different educational session formats, and new ways to enhance the delegates’ experience. I am now used to always questioning why and how we do what we do—and if there is any better way to do it. This makes every task a lot more stimulating and dynamic.
But this mindset does not have to be limited to moments of change. It can be used every day. There are endless ways to accomplish things, and it is up to us to find new and exciting ways to do so.
So, What Now?
A wise colleague once advised me to never settle, and always try to learn as many new things as possible. With this in mind, I realized that being open to exploring and listening to the experiences of others is extremely helpful and rewarding, whether you are a YP or a VP. This mindset may apply to my own job, to someone else’s job, the not-for-profit industry, or to anything you can think about.
Working at CSAE has opened my eyes, and I see now how many diverse learning opportunities there are out there—be it webinars, books, people around you, online communities, blogs, videos on YouTube, or conferences. All one needs is to stay curious enough to reach out and seek knowledge wherever it is available. So, if I can give an advice, it would be to stay open to learning opportunities. Don’t be scared to explore, ask questions, and to look for different ways of doing things.
And the beautiful thing about learning is that it opens so many doors—it may even help us figure out questions like, "What now?"
Note: This article can be seen as approaching the association world from the other end of the age bracket presented in this article.
Calling all rising leaders in the association and not-for-profit sectors! CSAE has an exciting opportunity for you to engage, connect and prosper! We’re looking for enthusiastic members across Canada in the early part of their association careers to join a task force— to help shape the future direction for emerging leaders. Interested in embarking on this adventure together? Contact Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org.