The CAE Difference: Becoming a Leader in Association Management
Years ago, I began my professional life as a teacher, and the only association I was familiar with was the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission (NCA-HLC). Young and enthusiastic, I volunteered to serve on the committee of teachers that worked to review, prepare, and organize all of the required school documents that were provided to the NCA during our scheduled review. I was passionate about quality standards, learning best practices, and refining my understanding of policies that enhance the professionalism in the educational arena. I knew this association held my school and many others accountable to a set of quality standards for instruction and required policies. It is funny, because even years later, I am still passionate about quality standards and policies. These continued interests were key motivators in my decision to obtain the CAE certification.
Of course, the CAE distinction is a valuable asset as you solidify your career within the world of association management; it is a preferred qualification for many positions and indicates competency in the field and demonstrates a dedication to lifelong learning. Much like my involvement on the NCA-HLC Review committee provided the chance for me, as a young teacher, to develop my abilities and better understand how to engage and motivate my colleagues and my students. Earning the CAE credential also opened doors and afforded me wonderful unexpected opportunities for growth within the association field.
The CAE exam study group sponsored by Association Forum of Chicagoland provided an instant network of association colleagues. Learning with my peers created a sense of comradery, especially as we tackled tricky financial or regulatory subject matters. As they contributed their own successes and failures with members and customers, I realized I was lucky enough to be learning from my peers as well. Their dedication to professional development inspired me to seek additional articles, conferences, and webinars that would enhance my skill set and make me a better association professional. After attending the American Association of Medical Society Executives (AAMSE) conference, I gained the confidence to volunteer and lead their Membership Special Interest Group. This lead to an invitation to serve as a facilitator in the AAMSE 360 Lecture Series, and later this month I will be presenting a concurrent session with colleagues at the AAMSE Annual Conference.
On a personal level, the people in this study group and the colleagues they have introduced me to continue to enhance the quality of my work. They provide wise counsel on issues as varied as how to handle a disruptive committee chair, collaborating to submit an abstract for Holiday Showcase, or acting as a practice audience for my AAMSE 360 Lecture. Any one of these colleagues might be that friend at an association cocktail party who will re-introduce me to the person whose name I can’t quite remember.
The knowledge I acquired while preparing to take the CAE exam has informed numerous decisions and consistently impacts my project planning. I believe my promotion from Manager to Director of Membership and Community Engagement for the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) was based on my application of association best practices that I acquired in the process of earning my CAE.
I highly encourage any association professional to consider sitting for the CAE exam. This test will evaluate your ability to manage an association, but more importantly, it challenges you to assess your strengths, identify your knowledge gaps, and seek out the reading, coaching, and training that will enable you to educate and inspire others as you effectively lead an association.
Still not sure if the CAE is right for you? Learn more on the ASAE CAE Certification website.
Emily Muse is the Director of Membership and Community Engagement for the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM).
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