Calling All Young Professionals: Career Panel Takeaways

Calling All Young Professionals: Career Panel Takeaways

By Sarah Dittmer, Education Administrator, Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists

Several times throughout my college career, I thought, “This is it! I’ve found what I want to do!”  Some of those career plans included museum curator, archeologist, communications director of a sports team, professor of physics, and professor of economics. Considering every “add” or “drop” of a major or minor in college, I think I made at least 11 changes to reflect the latest “This is it!” phase. I graduated with a marketing degree - very different from the previously listed jobs!

I sort of fell into my current role much like every job I’ve ever held – I knew someone who worked here. My previous jobs were in fields I felt connected to: museum research assistant (I love art), barista (I live on coffee), and external relations intern for the local hockey team (I love sports). Coming into my current role at AMC, I had no prior experience working with associations. I didn't know what they did, how they operated, or what to expect. I didn’t know where I could go with this type of career. Honestly, I didn’t know anything and I like to know things.

The Young Professionals (YP) SIG is a special interest group that focuses on aiding those who are new to their professional career. Since I’ve joined AMC, I’ve only been able to attend one meeting: the career panel. The career panel was organized for the members of the YP SIG and the Admin/Coordinator SIG (open to those who hold an administrator or a coordinator role) Panelists shared their career stories and attendees asked questions about how to proceed in their own careers. As a recent college graduate in her first "big girl" job, I found this career panel to be incredibly insightful.

The panel, which consisted of AMC’s Julie Ichiba, Sr. Manager, Professional Relations & Development (PRD), Carly Reisner, Chief Operating Officer, American Pain Society (APS), Julie Rogers, Managing Editor, Creative Media Services (CMS), and Bruce Hammond, Director of Governance and Operations, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO), provided a lot answers to questions I had and questions I didn’t know I had going into the meeting! I doubt the panel realizes just how much they helped us young professionals. 

young professionals

With personalities shining, the four panelists each talked about their professional journey, including where they started, how they came to the association industry, where they are now, and what they’ve learned along the way. Each offered several pieces of advice, with his or her own unique and funny stories, for us to take away and apply to our careers. Here are the bits that resonated with me.

General Career Advice:

  • Be a sponge. Soak up all the information you can. Read everything to stay up-to-date with your industry and your passions.
  • Build your network by getting involved and volunteering.
  • Find yourself a champion. A champion is someone who will fight for you when you're not in the room. Additionally, build your own “Board of Directors,” a group of people who can—and will—give you real, honest answers.
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths to further your career, but understand your weaknesses and continue to work on them daily.
  • Remember that nobody else is as focused on you as you are.
  • Be cognizant of your online reputation.
  • Be good to others. Think about how others feel and how your actions are making them feel.

Decision-Making Advice:

  • Things that aren't a great fit for you can still teach you something.  (This, I think, is very important and something that people often forget. I know I do.)
  • This is your career, you can make it whatever you want it to be, but you have to take the initiative. Talk to your boss about your career goals so you can take the necessary steps to get where you want to be.
  • If you do not see the opportunity, create the opportunity.
  • Take calculated risks. Do lots of research to make sure it's worth it.
  • Do the next right thing. If you make a mistake, work toward making it right. Cover-ups tend to frustrate people more than indiscretions.

I’m excited that I found this panel to be more beneficial than originally anticipated. I came into the meeting at square one, not knowing where I want to go in my career. Following the panel, I still may not know exactly what I want (I’m only 3 months in!), but the panelists provided me with several things to think about. I’m asking myself things like: What are my strengths and weaknesses? Where do I see myself growing in the association industry? Who is in my network and on my Board of Directors? Lastly, the panel reminded me that there is an infinite variety of ways to figure out and get where I want to go, not only one “right” path. Once I figure out where I want to go, that is. Here’s to the journey!

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