By Rebecca Hawk
Association management may be many things, but boring isn’t one of them. Between planning and hosting conferences, managing budgets, and working with members and volunteer leaders, many association executives don’t have a lot of true downtime. In those rare moments, when most of your members, vendors, and colleagues are slowing down temporarily, you have an excellent opportunity to tend to your own career.
The end of the year often provides one of those moments. Taking the time to conduct a personal career audit when you have fewer day-to-day work distractions can help you gain clarity around your goals, identify challenges and opportunities, and ask for what you need. Here are a few steps to help you through the process.
Take an honest look at where you are. To make the most of this exercise, it helps to schedule a block of uninterrupted time—even an hour—to do it. Commit to being honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. Many people who are dissatisfied with their career or feel stuck will chalk the feeling up to their current role, their boss, or their salary, among other tangible things. But changing your surroundings doesn’t usually address the root of your discomfort.
Consider your current role and working conditions. Reflecting on key components of your current role can give you valuable information about what your next career move should be.
First, take stock of your role and its responsibilities. Ask yourself: Does your workload allow for continued learning and professional development? Are you clear on your trajectory in your organization? Perhaps you don’t feel cut out for management, or you think you’re undercompensated for the work you do. Write down your thoughts on each of these aspects of your role.
Then, list any pain points you’re experiencing, as well as possible solutions. If your commute is becoming burdensome, for example, it could be time to pitch a telecommuting arrangement.
Think about your passions. While focusing on challenges can be enlightening, it’s also important to make note of the things you enjoy about your current role. When you think about the year—or just the month—ahead, what excites you? Perhaps you’re launching a new initiative or taking a deeper dive into a special project. Take a close look at the tasks that make you feel motivated to come to work, as well as the “other duties as assigned” that engage you the most. Those are the things you should aim to do more of in the future.
Take a close look at the tasks that make you feel motivated to come to work. Those are the things you should aim to do more of in the future.
Nurture your connections or create new ones. As part of your career audit, take stock of the state of your network and tend to it. Along with the cards you send to family and friends over the holidays, consider sending check-in emails to your connections. The holiday season is a great time to reach out to colleagues you’ve fallen out of touch with—and, if you’re thinking about making a career move, to reach out to new connections for informational interviews in the new year.
Conversations with people outside your established professional circle can help you troubleshoot an idea and learn about job opportunities that aren’t being advertised.
Pay attention to your mental health. A final important element of a career audit is thinking about your life outside of work. Many association executives put their members first, while often giving their own needs lower priority. Has it been a while since you’ve done something just for yourself? Often, we don’t realize we’re burned out until we’ve been running on fumes for too long. Make sure you take real vacations regularly, and tend to your mental health. And don’t forget to make time for extracurriculars and community engagement activities that bring you joy.
Whether you’re planning your next steps or just want to take stock of where you are, a personal career audit can help you refocus on your goals and look at your work with clear eyes.
Rebecca Hawk is the product manager for ASAE Business Services, Inc. Email: [email protected]