How did I get here? Navigating a Career in the Association World

How did I get here? Navigating a Career in the Association World

By Bruce Hammond, CAE

Editor’s note: We’re thrilled to introduce a new series on the ֱ blog, How did I get here? Navigating a Career in the Association World. In the coming months, we’ll feature career articles from ֱ staff sharing their personal career stories and providing insight to those considering or just starting out in the field. This week, Bruce Hammond, CAE shares lessons learned from his 17-year career.

bruce hammond amcblog

I’ve had a somewhat winding road in my career. It has taken me to four states, exposed me to a variety of work settings, and provided opportunities to work with and for some amazing people. That winding road has ultimately led me to Association Management Center and the two organizations I currently support – the , and the . I’ve learned so much over the years, but the following three lessons stand out the most for people just considering or entering the association world.

Lesson 1: Association management is a people business. Yes, you need to understand your primary function and how it interacts with the other functions of running an association. However, whether you work in a trade association where the companies are members, a professional society where individuals are members, or a certification organization, the association management profession is a people business at the end of the day. You need to understand how to interact with people, connect with people, work with people, and perhaps most importantly, listen to people to be effective in your role. And these are not just your fellow employees, but also the members/volunteers with whom you work – it’s their organization after all.

Lesson 2: Associations are great places to find your niche. Associations are ideal environments to learn what you really want to do with your career. Some people use their collegiate expertise and go right into the area of their studies – perhaps in marketing or communications like I did at the beginning of my career. I have since found that my real interest and talents lie in governance and operations, so I have moved my focus to those areas primarily. I didn’t study association governance in college, but I have learned about it during my career and have had the chance to explore it as a career. Associations provide those opportunities to explore and find what you’re most passionate about. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Lesson 3: Commit to professional development. I have committed myself to being involved in professional organizations like the and throughout my career. These memberships have allowed me to learn, grow, get involved, and find my tribe. In fact, some of the people I rely upon most in my work aren’t necessarily the people sitting to the left or right of me in the office (though I have great confidants here at ֱ), but rather those who I have met in other professional development experiences. Remember, it’s your career, not anyone else’s, so commit to developing yourself and you will be happy you did. This also means doing your best to find employers who support and encourage your desire to do so.   

These are just three of the many, many lessons I have learned during my career. I could share more, but I’ll leave that to future bloggers who I’m sure will share some great insights.

Before you click away, I have one final piece of advice for you – if you are interested in working for associations, consider joining Association Management Center. The leaders here value people’s contributions and you will work with a group of outstanding professionals striving every day to make a difference for our partner organizations. Learn more about open positions by . I hope to see you around the office soon and talk your ear off with a few more lessons I’ve learned!

Bruce Hammond, CAE serves as Director, Marketing & Communications for the and Director, Governance & Operations for the . He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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